Flood!

Outside's guide to surviving everything

Flood

Flood     Photo: Christopher LaMarca

Survival Myth

Survey Says: Drinking urine can help stave off dehydration.

Science Says: While urine is sterile and 95 percent water, its rehydrating benefits are fleeting. After a couple of days without water, the afternoon glow will begin to concentrate, making it difficult for your kidneys to filter. A better option is to try digging at the outside of a dry riverbed or collecting condensation with a solar still (you'll need a tarp and a container).

The Forecast: This year, all eyes are on the Mississippi, which flooded in April. But before that came ­vicious floods in Australia in January, Pakistan last July, and Nashville last May. Don’t expect it to stop: rainfall increased roughly 5 percent over the past 50 years in the U.S., and as the planet warms, climate experts predict more precipitation in already flood-prone tropical countries such as Bangladesh. Urban expansion and increased channeling of rivers have also created a recipe for floods. FEMA is already expanding floodplain maps to include new areas that could be inundated, such as Southern California and San Antonio, Texas.

Stats: 3.6 million—acres of farmland in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee swamped by the April Mississippi River flood.

Worst-Case Scenario: Being trapped by floodwaters. Even six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet; 24 inches can float an SUV. Staying put and waiting for rescue in a safe area, such as a roof or the ­upper stories of a sturdy house, is the only strategy.

Smart Move: In the wilderness, avoid flash floods, which can rip down canyons and streams in an instant. If a clear stream suddenly becomes muddy, begins carrying debris, or starts rising, a flood is coming. If you hear thunder upstream, move to higher ground.

More Likely Scenario: Class V dump

What: Your raft or kayak flipped.

Strategy: Assume the whitewater swim position—feet aimed downstream, toes above water, head back. If you get caught in a recirculating hole, don’t fight to stay on top—let the current submerge and then flush you out. If you go over any drops, tuck your knees under your arms.

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