Spring Severe Weather Season In North Texas - 04/11/21 - Segment 3
SCOTT PADGETT: Welcome back. I'm chief meteorologist Scott Padgett. A deadly fact about severe weather that you may not realize concerns flash flooding. Since 2010, the most flood deaths reported in one state in the country, it's Texas. 212 people have died because of flooding with Arkansas a distant second with 63 deaths. Fortunately, last year, only three deaths were attributed to flooding in our state across the nation in 2019.
And again, last year, more than half of the deaths linked to flooding were people driving. The National Weather Service says it can only take a foot of water to carry away a car or a small SUV. 18 inches can wash away a larger vehicle, and only six inches of water can knock a person off their feet. That's why you hear so often, turn around, don't drown. It's an important warning that can save lives.
We have a great working relationship with the meteorologists at the National Weather Service office here in Fort Worth. Recently, Jeff Ray talked with warning coordination meteorologist Jennifer Dunn about flash flooding and the spring's severe weather season.
JENNIFER DUNN: Flash flooding is a little bit more of really having the right ingredients lineup to produce a heavy rain event. And those ingredients can be a little bit different than what we need for severe thunderstorm events also. But heavy rain events can happen any time of the day and any time of the night throughout the year also. So they are a constant threat here in our area. We probably do see more rain and heavy rain events in the spring severe weather months. Those are typically our rainiest months of the year with another peak in the fall as well as we start to collide with cold front and colder air coming into the region.
So those are generally the two areas that we see heavy rain events more often, but they certainly can occur anywhere within the area. If you think about summer, it's usually hot and dry. But if we get the remnants of a tropical system moving into this area, then that can produce not only a severe storm threat on top of it but a heavy rain flash flood threat, too.
JEFF RAY: Right, and I guess what I was getting at is that usually the scenario isn't what happens at home. It's what happens in your car.
JENNIFER DUNN: Yes, absolutely. So flash flooding is, majority of the time, more of a threat to people who are driving or out on roads. Yes, you do get instances where water is rising and inundating structures, homes, businesses, and buildings, but the majority of the deaths occur by people that are in vehicles. And so for that purpose, yes, it's outside your home. And a lot of times, it can happen a little bit slower than, say, a tornado that moves through in 30 seconds. So it can take time to develop and occur a little bit slower but still be very life-threatening.
STEWART MCKENZIE: Right, and last through an overnight as well.
JENNIFER DUNN: Absolutely. If you can't get that water to drain or if you get more rain in the area, that flood threat continues for several hours.
STEWART MCKENZIE: Right. And I was wondering, Jennifer, you've been here in North Texas for a while now. And I was wondering if you see a common thing you're constantly teaching. The Weather Service office here is excellent at reaching out to everybody as well as the common viewer, more than how you help us out every time there's severe weather. But I was wondering, I was telling you earlier, like the things that I observed, people don't really assess statistically risk very well. What have you learned in your time in North Texas on how people react and deal with the weather threats here?
JENNIFER DUNN: So there are a couple of things that probably stand out to me on that. One is we continue to struggle and educate people on understanding these risks. If it doesn't happen to them, they kind of just sort of brush it off, and then they will-- they may say that they were-- I wouldn't say unprepared but maybe just not as prepared as they can be when it does happen to them. So getting over that fatigue of hearing and seeing the warnings but not having it happen to you can be a barrier to really get people to prepare and understand what the threats are.
So for even the last couple of decades, we're still kind of working on making sure people understand the threats, what those threats can do, and then how to get those warnings and watches and to actually take action. Social science now, social science have become big in the last decade or two. And they've taught us more about how people accept, or get, and interpret, and then the actions that they take. There's actually about seven steps that they take before they might actually take action.
So now, we know we've gotta work with that. But they go through the series of mental and physical actions before they might take actual shelter in a lot of cases. So how do we work with and how do we reach people to get them to act faster, to shelter faster than that?
And then with social media now, there's reports coming from all over. I think just the interest and the visibility of weather, not only with the stories that are representative of every event that happens in the country, not just extreme ones, but there's just more visibility of it. So everybody can post and share about weather now. And so we're getting a lot of good reports, probably more reports than ever through social media. We're still getting them through our other key networks like our broadcast media, emergency managers, public safety, and amateur radio, but you've added on the addition of social media.
So now, you have people that are giving you maybe vague reports, where you're trying to educate them on the best way to give you that information so that you can use that information, those reports to make sound, scientific, and realistic warnings as the storm continues on, instead of taking time to maybe ask again on social media or through social media, know where is that? Or, what time? Or, how big is that hail? Training people on how to report so that we can actually use that information is critical, too.
And then the last thing that I can think of that probably hasn't changed-- or maybe it's changed a little bit over the last couple of years is we're starting to notice a big influx of people moving into the area from outside of Texas who aren't familiar with Texas weather. And so making sure to get them educated-- and they're coming in, particularly sometimes from [AUDIO OUT] areas that don't experience a lot of difference in weather.
So their interest really piques when they're impacted or they have a severe thunderstorm that first time. And then, they start learning more. So we still definitely have that educational part as these transplants from outside of the state move in and start to really taste what weather here in North and Central Texas can be like.
STEWART MCKENZIE: Yeah. A lot of times, they're experiencing our heat for the first time. And a lot of times, they're seeing hail for the first time.
JENNIFER DUNN: Absolutely. Or even a severe thunderstorm for the first time.
STEWART MCKENZIE: Yeah, I know, people from the East Coast. They don't get our kind of weather.
JENNIFER DUNN: No, a lot of them, honestly, that I've talked to, it seems like recently it's actually been from the West Coast. So it's a different climatology and weather regime out there.
STEWART MCKENZIE: The Texas weather experts has decades of weather experience. What we're doing to help encourage and inspire the next generation of meteorologists right here in North Texas? It's a final thought next on "To The Point."