Tropical Storm

What to Do in a Flash Flood: Watches in Effect For Most of New England

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other storm-related hazard, according to the National Weather Service.

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Our weather team issued a First Alert for the region as it remains under a warning for the impact of tropical storm Elsa. Flash flood watches are also in effect for much of New England, with the exception of near the Canadian border.

Officials in the town of Scituate, Massachusetts, are concerned about flash flooding as tropical storm Elsa is expected to dump about three inches of rain, with the worst coming down between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The National Weather Service is warning people: "turn around, don’t drown." Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other storm-related hazard.

It’s best to avoid travel in weather like this, experts say. In Falmouth, Fire Chief Timothy Smith said officials are asking everybody to stay put during the storm. But if you must travel, officials warn drivers not to drive around the barriers blocking a flooded road. 

More than half of all flood-related drownings occur when a car is driven into hazardous flood water, causing many in cars to get swept downstream, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials also urge people not to walk through flowing water. Most drownings occur during flash floods. Six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off of your feet.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency recommends the following guidelines for flash floods:

What to do During a Flood or Flash Flood Warning

  • Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take only essential items and pets if it is safe to do so. 
  • Keep checking the media for the latest emergency information. Things can change quickly. 

The Red Cross of Massachusetts also offers a comprehensive list of safety tips on their website.

Especially on the Cape and the Islands, officials are warning residents to be ready for ferry disruptions, localized flooding and even some power outages.

Plymouth Fire Chief Edward Bradley said the town had extra crews on duty and spent all day Thursday preparing saws, generators auxiliary pumps, and checking community any areas of concern, like trees leaning on wires.

"We actually have two concerns. One is the strong winds," Bradley said. "The other issue is the rough seas and a rip currents that we're expecting. And with the rip currents we've decided to close the public beaches today, probably Saturday, and then we'll reevaluate that afterwards. We just don't want any swimmers to get caught off guard and get into trouble."

Town officials in Scituate are asking residents to secure their homes and boats and to be prepared for scattered power outages. It's important to keep electronics charged and consider making extra ice for those who do not have a generator.

Along with wind gusts over 60 mph and torrential downpours, there’s also the threat for embedded tornadoes. They happen very quickly in a situation like this and can come down and go back up within a matter of minutes, causing some localized heavier damage.

Fairly widespread power outages should be limited to within a few miles of the coast line this morning through this afternoon.

Eversource is closely monitoring the forecast and has additional crews on standby, according to officials, in case the power goes out. Some 200 crews from Canada made it to Hyannis on Thursday after a brief delay at the border and they'll join local crews in tackling any issues.

Crews will fan out across the Cape, ready to respond, as soon as Elsa passes.

"We have been monitoring the storm for well over a week now, when it was down in Florida," Eversource employee Michael McGuire said. "Living on Cape Cod with all the people down here, just the traffic, logistics, and the layouts, when the storm hits we want to be able to respond fast, and having these people already staged here ahead of the storm, that is how we prepare."

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