Lesson on flooding comes at appropriate time
CHARLES TOWN — The Jefferson County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management welcomed Jason Elliott, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service, to share information on flooding at their monthly meeting held on July 27 at Paddy’s Irish Pub.
Elliott discussed different weather patterns causing different types of flooding, many patterns of which the Eastern Panhandle has and will continue to experience this summer.
“Hot air rises and cool air sinks,” Elliott said.
According to Elliott, heavy rains have fallen on the cooler side of weather fronts locally, and similar fronts are expected here in the weeks ahead.
“So far year to date, we have had 35 to 40 inches of rain for the year,” Elliott said. “That is more than all of last year combined. And, keep in mind, the tropical season hasn’t even started.”
According to Elliott, the rainfall for the area has been high this year — the Opequon Creek has flooded five times, the Shenandoah River has flooded three times and the Potomac River, measured at Shepherdstown, has flooded three times.
“We’ve had all of this rain we’ve had without a tropical storm, which is sort of remarkable,” Elliott said, mentioning local residents need to listen to the National Weather Service’s different warnings, which include flood warnings, flash flood warnings and extreme flood warnings.
Nuisance flooding, Elliott said, does not affect life or property, as general flooding does. Nuisance floods include small standing water areas on roadways, or ponds exceeding their regular boundaries. General flooding, in contrast, involves multiple feet of standing water in structures or on roadways.
“We have issued 215 flood warnings so far this year. We have also issued 55 flash flood warnings,” Elliott said, mentioning flash floods occur when individuals do not have time react, unlike general flooding, although the water’s impact is often the same in the end.
Several catastrophic, emergency warnings indicating that lives are in extreme danger and properties will likely be severely damaged have also been issued this year for Frederick, Maryland and Ellicott City, Maryland, when these cities experienced extreme flooding.
“These warnings come with different warnings than the boiler-plate-language issued in standard warnings. If you see different wording, especially with capital letters, then there is something more important going on,” Elliott said, mentioning heat stroke is the only weather condition causing more deaths than flooding.