Heavy rains have contributed to flooding in low-lying areas around campus recently and we would like to share information in understanding what the campus community should do in order to stay safe.

It can be confusing hearing the terms “Advisory, Watch, and Warning” among others that national agencies categorize weather hazards. Remembering these terms is part of the difficulty; however, knowing how to protect yourself and knowing where flooding is common are just as important. The following safety information is provided in part by the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

Local agencies and our UTC Police Department always advise three precautionary/preparedness tips:

  1. Turn around, don’t drown!” – A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away most cars and just 2 feet of rushing water can carry away SUVs and trucks. It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters.
  2. Slow down and be cautious at night when it is harder to recognize the dangers of flooding.” – The greatest potential for hydroplaning can occur within the first ten minutes or even a light rain as that water can combine with the oil residue that automobiles leave on the surface of the road. That combination of water and oil creates the ideal conditions for slippery roads, and thus increases the potential for loss of control; especially when it difficult to see at night.
  3. Allow more time for travel.” – Whether you are traveling by foot or automobile, using the two previous tips can potentially delay your normal commute time to campus. We much rather you arrive safe than risk your life being on time. Know alternate routes you can use in case of road closures and leave 10-15 minutes earlier than usual, it can make a huge difference.

We strongly suggest students, faculty, or staff to report to UTC Police (423-425-4357) when you see substantial flooding on campus. This could be helpful in attaining more information in order to communicate between our staff and officers, and then leading toward an assessment of the affected area. “See something, say something.

One local online tool you can use is the Hamilton County 911 active incident page where you select ‘road closures’ that are officially known to the County 911 Center. There are road names plus Google Map locations linked in case of flooding or other safety hazards that may affect your commute.

Surrounding our campus there are low-lying areas where flash floods can occur at any given time during heavy downpours. Over the past years spots that are usually prone to flooding are contributed by city street drains and surround property that pond up water, thus blocking entry ways to buildings, resident halls and parking lots.

Flash floods are exactly what the name suggests: floods that happen in a flash. Flash floods generally develop within 6 hours of the immediate cause. These floods exhibit a rapid rise of water over low-lying areas. In some cases, flooding may even occur well away from where heavy rain initially fell. These sudden downpours can rapidly change the water levels in a stream or creek and turn small waterways into violent, raging rivers. Urban areas are especially prone to flash floods due to the large amounts of concrete and asphalt surfaces that do not allow water to penetrate into the soil easily, as well as debris blocking storm drains from being 100% efficient.

What is the difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning issued by the National Weather Service?

  • Flash Flood Warning: Take Action A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop.
  • Flood Warning: Take Action A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
  • Flood Watch: Be Prepared: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
  • Flood Advisory: Be Aware: An Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance. A Flood Advisory is issued when flooding is not expected to be bad enough to issue a warning. However, it may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.

Our Emergency Services’ two divisions take these warnings seriously and assess potential threats of all kinds. When a decision is made to change the operations schedule, information is distributed to the campus community via UTC-ALERT in a variety of ways. Via multiple email, text message, main UTC social media accounts, website platforms, shared with on-campus WUTC-FM 88.1, and other local news outlets. Recorded voice messages with status reports are at 423-425-4766. Clear instructions are given to both employees and students of the University whether there is a delay or closing, and if any specific faculty or staff are required to work.

Learn what the university inclement weather policy states and follow the National Weather Service or the local news stations for specifics on city road conditions that you take to campus.

To see more flood safety tips from the National Weather Service, you can read here: https://www.weather.gov/safety/flood

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