Grand Canyon National Park Severe Weather

Lightning

Go to low-lying areas away from cliff edges, lone trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure this area is not subject to flashfloods. Do not seek shelter in caves or alcoves. Become a smaller target by squatting low on the ground. Place hands on knees or back of neck with head between knees. Do not line down or touch the ground with you hands. Minimize contact with the ground and nearby rocks to minimize ground current effects caused by a nearby strike. Lightning can strike 10 miles across the canyon, so being below the rim does not make you at a low spot. Rock Falls Watch and listen for rock falls and slides, especially during and after downpours. Do not stand at places where rocks have obviously fallen there before. Flash Floods Be cautious and/or avoid areas subject to flooding - stream beads, narrow canyons and washers. Do not cross-flowing water or flooded trails where water is above your knees. When near or in any creek or drainage, always face upstream. Always be alert! Remember that it does not have to be raining where you are to cause a sudden flash flood in your area. If you see or hear a flood coming, move to higher ground immediately! Do not try to outrun a flood. Warn other people downstream when a flash flood occurs. Flash Flood Facts Flash floods are the number 1 weather-related killer in the United States, killing about 200 people every year. Most, if not all, of these fatalities could have been avoided if those involved would have recognized the dangers of flash floods and taken a few simple actions to protect themselves. Be especially cautious in areas posted with flash flood warning signs.

Flash floods

which have been described as more water than you want in less time than you have, are common in Northern Arizona. This is because the arid, sparsely vegetated environments found in this area have little capacity to absorb rainfall. The resulting runoff moves rapidly through the narrow canyons and steep terrain found throughout Northern Arizona. In many areas, even small storms can turn normally dry streambeds into raging torrents of water in a matter of minutes.

Flash floods can occur at any time of the year. Be alert for the possibility of flash flooding anytime that rainfall is forecast. Be especially cautious from July to mid-September when severe thunderstorms can develop rapidly.

A flash flood can travel miles beyond the rainfall that generated it, catching unwary hikers and motorists by surprise. This is what happened in; Lower Antelope Canyon on August 12, 1997. In this tragic incident twelve hikers were caught in a flash flood that filled the narrow canyon with water that reached depths of up to 50 feet. The hikers did not recognize the flood danger until it was too late, probably because the storm that caused the flood occurred miles away. Only one hiker survived!

Flash Floods and Hikers

The possibility of rainfall and flash flooding should be taken seriously if you plan to hike the canyons of Northern Arizona. Before you begin any hike always check the weather forecast. Be prepared to change your plans if storms threaten.

Don't be so committed to your hike that you refuse to recognize a dangerous situation. Northern Arizona is an incredibly diverse area with may thins to do and see. When weather threatens, postponing your hike for a day or two, and finding something else to do, is a wise decision that could save your like. During your hike watch continually for changing weather conditions. Remember, it need not be raining where you are hiking for a flash flood to occur. Signs of distant rainfall, such as thunder and lighting, should be taken seriously. If rainfall threatens, get out of the canyon or get to high ground quickly. It is a good idea before you hike to study maps to identify possible escape routes.

Be especially careful hiking the Grand Canyon, Marble Canyon and Glen Canyon regions. The slot canyons in these areas are beautiful, but can be extremely dangerous when it rains. Hikers have been killed in flash floods generated by thunderstorms as far as 25 miles away. Never camp in a dry wash. If you must camp near a wash, camp as high as possible and check for indication of past high water, such as stains on rock walls and debris lines.

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