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Don't Get Swept Away

Summer Safety Series

Summer is a great time of year to be outdoors. The kids are out of school with lots of free time to explore – whether it’s hiking, spending a day at the park, swimming or doing some other type of athletic activity. However, there are certain things you should always keep in mind to make the most out of your fun in the sun and to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe.

Welcome to UNM Health’s Summer Safety Series. The third installment will focus on flash floods and the threat they pose to anyone in arroyos and ditches.

Don't Get Swept Away

Monsoon season can bring heavy rains to the metro’s ditches, arroyos

By Terry Kelly

It’s official – monsoon season, which lasts June 15 to Sept. 30, is here. Though these storms can bring relief from oppressively hot days, the heavy rains can also lead to flash flooding, especially in ditches and arroyos.

Did You Know?

Flash floods can strike very quickly. Though it might be sunny and dry in Albuquerque, it can be raining in the Sandia Mountains. The water can then come sweeping down the arroyos in the city..

The No. 1 thing to do is to stay out high-danger areas, such as arroyos and ditches, since they are the first to flood, says Melissa Romero, public information officer for the Albuquerque Fire Department.

“Please educate your children to stay out of those places,” she says. “They like to play and skateboard in them, but we have plenty of beautiful parks all over the city where they can do that.”

When to Call 911

According to Romero, water can flow as quickly as 30 mph through the arroyos, which is easily strong enough to knock a grown man down and sweep him away. Even just a little bit of water can be dangerous.

“If water is only one foot deep, it can displace a 1,500-pound vehicle,” Romero says. “So people should never drive through flooded areas. You can get stuck or the water can start carrying your vehicle.”

If you ever find yourself in this situation, Romero says that you should exit your car only if it is safe to do so. If you can get out and get to a higher elevation safely, then you should. However, if the water is flowing too quickly or if your vehicle is being carried, then you should call 911.

The AFD has 11 stations that are trained in swift-water rescue spread throughout the flood channel in the city.

“They have designated areas they go to if a call comes in that someone is in danger,” Romero says.

City arroyos are equipped with poles that firefighters can use to attach a rope and safety bag to in an effort to rescue anyone caught in a flooded arroyo.

Safety Tips

If you ever find yourself caught in flowing water, Romero recommends the following:

  • Float on your back and point your feet downward.
  • Find something sturdy and strong that you can grab onto, such as a light pole.
  • If you cannot grab hold of anything, continue to float on your back until the water slows, or you are rescued.

If you ever see someone in danger in the water, DO NOT attempt a rescue yourself. Immediately call 911 and tell them your location and situation.

“It can be difficult enough to save one person,” says Romero. “We don’t want to have to try and save two.”

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