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A flood can kill you

Jun 9, 2017 - By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

It can also injure you, exhaust you and ruin your day, so just keep away

A flood can kill you.

Don't kid yourself. We had unexpected flooding in April, and a man north of Riverton drowned in a flooded canal channel.

What is happening now, and will keep happening through the weekend and into next week, is much worse than that. There is much more water , in many more places, affecting many more people, and bringing much more danger.

The Wind River already had surpassed its all-time flood stage by Thursday night. It could well keep rising for three more days, as could the Little Wind, the Popo Agie, the Little Popo Agie and a dozen smaller tributaries.

Please don't make it worse. Don't take chances in flooded areas. There is enough trouble without looking for more.

People get in trouble with flooding for different reasons. Here are some things to remember:

The water is deeper than you think it is. When water starts going places it usually doesn't go, into channels it doesn't usually fill, you can't be sure of the depth. Water doesn't have to be over your head to be dangerous.

The water is moving faster than you think it is. If you think a fast-moving stream of river in flood conditions is the same as your irrigation ditch or the clear mountain creek you wade through with your fishing pole, think again. It is relentless and strong. It can know you off your feet or exhaust you. And if you fall, the water suddenly is a lot deeper (see above).

The water has things in it that you can't or won't see coming. Ranger staffer Dan Bendtsen shot pictures Thursday of entire trees floating down the river. If you get hit be something in the moving water, your ability to stay upright and in control lessens quickly.

You don't know what's in the water. It is opaque. If you are trying to cross a flooded waterway, you can't be sure what you are walking on. There could be an obstacle, a hole, a piece of jagged, rusty debris, or any number of other things that could trip you, injure you, or require you to take more time and expend more effort than you anticipated (see exhaustion, above).

The water is colder than you think it is. It begins as snow, remember, and even though it is warmed by flowing downstream, it is not a bath or a heated swimming pool. You can get dangerously cold in a hurry, even when the air temperature is warm. And when you are cold, you may be less alert, less physically able, and less prepared to help yourself or others.

The water is dirtier than you think. If you try to negotiate floodwater on foot, jeep in mind that you are, essentially, entering a huge, fast-moving mudflow. You will be filthy when you get out, as will anything you take into the water with you.

Beyond that, floodwater that passes through occupied areas might carry off trash, septic sewage, fertilizer, industrial chemicals and who knows what else. "Icky" doesn't do it justice.

Water that is deeper, swifter, colder and dirtier than you are used to is something to be avoided. That goes for you, your spouse, your friend, your child, your car and your horse. It will be over soon enough. Don't make things worse for the emergency workers who have a job to do. Get away and stay away.

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