FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — It may not be the rainy months yet, but according to officials from the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Safety Office and the Directorate of Emergency Services, it doesn’t need to be any particular season for significant risk of flooding.
“Floods are unpredictable and destructive, and they can happen in areas that have not seen rain but are downstream from a rain event,” said Dan Dubbs with the MSCoE Safety Office. “Floods can cause death, injuries, isolate communities, damage major infrastructure, cut essential services, destroy property and livelihoods.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flooding is the No. 1 weather-related cause of death in the United States, with nearly half of fatalities being from automobile incidents.
That statistic is locally relevant. On Dec. 26, 2015, six people drowned in flood waters at a low water crossing site on State Highway U in Pulaski County.
Harry Eckman Jr., Directorate of Emergency Services deputy chief of police, said it is critical to keep an eye out for flooded roadways.
“‘Turn around, don’t drown’ should be everyone’s guide,” Eckman said. “If you’re traveling in heavy rain at night, especially on an unfamiliar roadway, drive slow and keep in mind that low-lying areas of the highway may be under water.”
Officials warned that the surrounding area can be dangerous in inclement weather.
“The soil in the Ozarks is very rocky and not very conducive to water absorption,” Dubbs said. “It does not take a great deal of rain or snow melt to cause a large run off and subsequent flash flood or a localized flooding event.”
Eckman asked residents and those who work on Fort Leonard Wood to stay vigilant as some routes on the installation can become inundated with water during heavy rainfall.
“We have several state highways and rural routes in our area that frequently become covered by running water from a flash-flood and you cannot see the danger until you’re right up on it,” he said. “The roadway may not be there if it’s been washed away. Attempting to cross a flooded roadway, especially with running water, is dangerous and has resulted in tragic outcomes in the past.”
Flood watch vs. flood warning
DES urged service members and civilians alike to keep in mind the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning.
“A flood watch means that conditions are present to cause floods,” Eckman said. “A flood warning means that a flood is happening or is coming.”
Eckman also urged community members to heed emergency warnings and barricades.
“During flooding, we block off and close certain areas and roadways that are either flooded or are expected to flood,” he said. “However, it’s common for us to discover that those barricades have been moved and people have traveled into that dangerous area. This is not only illegal, it’s dangerous. Please obey signs and barricades. They’re put there for a reason.”
Because weather can worsen rapidly, it’s important for everyone to stay up to date with the latest alerts and warnings.
The Fort Leonard Wood Weather Alerts page — https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/Garrison/weather — is updated at 5 a.m. every day year-round and as weather conditions change.
The fort’s ALERT system — https://alertservices.csd.disa.mil — automatically sends alerts of hazards on or near the installation.
The installation’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/fortleonardwoodmissouri — is typically updated the fastest regarding road conditions, facility closures or official announcements.
In addition to keeping an emergency kit in the car and avoiding risky behavior during a flood, Eckman also asked Fort Leonard Wood community members to report any dangerous situations to local law enforcement. Those on the installation can contact DES directly at 573.596.6141.