Flooding terms- What do they mean?

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – As many of us have learned with the recent heavy rains, flooding is a real threat to many people. Most people saw the weather crawl that would come across the television screen during the flooding, but with so many different terms used to warn about flooding, it can be difficult to keep them all straight.

A Flood Watch is issued by the National Weather Service when there is a potential for widespread flooding. A Flood Watch is generally issued for flooding that is expected to occur through prolonged periods of rain. When heavy, torrential rain that is expected to drop large amounts of rain over a shorter period of time is expected in an area, a Flash Flood Watch will be issued.

A Flood Warning, just like any other weather warning, is more serious than a watch and calls for immediate action. A Flood or Flash Flood Warning means that flooding is imminent or in progress. These warnings usually focus on specific counties, communities or streams and rivers. Flash Flood Warnings are issued for flooding that occurs within a matter of hours of heavy rain. A River Flood Warning is issued when a certain river is expected to rise above its designated flood stage.

An Areal Flood Warning is normally issued for flooding that develops more gradually, usually from prolonged and persistent periods of moderate to heavy rainfall. This can result in a gradual buildup of water in flood-prone areas as well as creeks and streams. This type of flooding typically occurs more than six hours after rainfall begins.

A Flood Advisory will be issued when flooding occurs or is expected to occur, but is not considered a significant threat to life or property. Flood Advisories usually deal with nuisance flooding problems, such as flooding of areas of poor drainage or minor flooding of roadways.

Flood watches, warnings and advisories are commonly issued for extended periods of time, for a period of hours or even days and often stay in place even after the rain has ceased. Even though rainfall may have subsided, flooding can persist for some time. The longer warning allows for rainwater to recede while keeping the public aware that flooding is still occurring and there is still a threat to life or property in the warned area.

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