Flash Flood Awareness in Southwest Virginia


*Address correspondence to Korine N. Kolivras, Department of Geography, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 115 Major Williams Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA; tel: (540) 231-5514; korine@vt.edu.


Flash floods are one of the most dangerous weather-related natural disasters in the world. These events develop less than six hours after a rainfall event and create hazardous situations for people and extensive damage to property. It is critical for flash flood conditions to be warned of in a timely manner to minimize impacts. There is currently a knowledge gap between flood experts and the general public about the level of perceived risk that the latter has toward the powerful flood waters and how events should be warned of, which affects the communication capabilities and efficiency of the warning process. Prior research has addressed risk perception of natural disasters, but there is little emphasis on flash floods within flood-prone regions of the United States. This research utilizes an online survey of 300 respondents to determine the current state of flash flood awareness and preparation in southwest Virginia. Analysis of trends involved the use of chi-squared tests (χ2) and simple frequency and percentage calculations. Results reveal that a knowledge base of flash floods does exist, but is not advanced enough for proper awareness. Young adults have a lower understanding and are not as concerned about flood impacts. Increased exposure and perceived risk play a key role in shaping the way a person approaches flash floods. People do monitor flood events, but they are unaware of essential guidance and communication mechanisms. Finally, results suggest that the current method of warning about flash floods is not provided at an appropriate level of detail for effective communication.