Flood dangers: What do watches, advisories, warnings mean?

Those of us who have lived in Houston long enough know, when it rains it pours – literally.

Flood prone dangers are something that we experience not only during Hurricane season, but year-round.

SUGGESTED: 2023 hurricane season officially begins on June 1

"Turn around, don’t drown," is a slogan we’re all familiar with. Yet, every year people test the depth of water with four tires and two feet.

With so many different types of flood alerts, we know it can be confusing. So, what do they all mean?

A Flood Watch is issued when the potential for flooding exists, but flooding isn’t necessarily happening at that moment.

Once flooding begins, Areal Flood Advisories are issued for short-term minor street flooding or ponding on roadways in addition to rises in small waterways.

The word "warning" means it’s time to take immediate action especially if accompanied by the word "flash". This indicates a quick onset of likely rushing water and can be life-threatening.

SUGGESTED: Near-average 2023 Atlantic hurricane season expected with up to 17 named storms, NOAA says

The strength of water is often underestimated, but there’s a reason why we use it as a power source.

Half a foot of standing water can reach the passenger floor of most cars, while the same amount of rushing water is enough to knock a grown adult off their feet.

A foot of standing water is enough to float most vehicles, while two feet of rushing water has the strength to carry away even a truck or SUV.


Your car is also filled with sensitive electrical equipment that can be damaged even in small quantities, and in large quantities can lead to a total loss.

Other dangers may also exist within floodwaters including debris, live electrical wires or animals like snakes and alligators. This is why walking through floodwaters is equally as unsafe as driving into them.

Any combination of this can prove to be life-threatening. Flooding claims more lives on average yearly than lightning, tornadoes or hurricanes. And the state with the most flood related fatalities? Texas.

MORE: What the cone of uncertainty is and how its made

So, what do you do if you find yourself in a dangerous situation, and it’s too late? Call for help to initiate a high-water rescue. After opening a window, if the car is still running, turn it off. Exit the vehicle through the window to seek higher ground on the roof while you wait to be rescued.

If you just thought to yourself, "I wouldn’t be able to do that" or "I can’t swim," then hopefully this will make you think twice before driving into floodwaters.