Emotional rollercoasters are only fun in movies, not in real life. A day out hiking meant to be fun and relaxing can quickly turn tragic due to perils such as flash floods, mudslides or animal attacks. In light of the recent loss of life due to flash floods in Hell’s Gate National Park, firstly, our deepest condolences go out to the families, friends, and colleagues of those who met their untimely end. Secondly, we offer the best tips on how to survive a flash flood when out hiking because one may never know when the unexpected strikes. But first, a flash flood is a sudden and rapid flow of water caused by severe weather conditions such as heavy rainfall or meltwater from ice or snow.

Know the History of the Hiking Trail

Right now, anyone would be wary of taking a hike in Hell’s Gate National Park let alone in the gorges themselves. This is because it is now widely known that the park is prone to flash floods. Extrapolating this line of thought, one should therefore always research the flooding history of an area. That way, one is able to gauge the amount of risk involved in the hiking trail one intends to go on. If possible, only plan hiking trips in areas that have no previous history of flash floods. However, if the area has had some previous unfortunate incidents of flash floods and despite this fact, one’s mind is made up on going on the hike then at the very least one should be very alert.

Avoid Gorges, Swimming Holes or Areas that Water Runs Through

A gorge in Hell's Gate National Park
A gorge in Hell’s Gate National Park

Walking through a dry gorge is quite adventurous. The stratified walls of any gorge are quite intriguing to look at. The enchanting channel of a gorge begs to be explored. However, unless one is blessed with the speed to outrun a stream of water ferociously making its way downstream through the gorge then gorges and similar physical features should be avoided altogether. And just to be clear, no one is blessed with the speed to outrun flowing water from a flash flood.

Gorges and the likes should be observed from a safe distance to avoid risking one’s life. In fact, there are much safer alternatives for exploring gorges such as flying a drone with a mounted camera through the gorge. Worst case scenario, one loses their drone and camera. A much more acceptable loss compared to one’s life.

Be on the Lookout for Signs of an Imminent Flash Flood

Flash floods can occur in a flash, hence the name. Nonetheless, there are a few signs that one can be on the lookout for. Such signs, if recognized immediately, can buy one a few precious minutes or seconds to get out of danger. Some signs of an imminent flash flood include a change in the color of water, a sudden increase in the amount of debris in the water, an inexplicable rise in the level of water, a rumbling sound especially coming from the upstream direction, and finally, rain is never a good sign. The moment one feels those first droplets get to safety immediately. It is most likely already raining heavily in areas further upstream and a flash flood may be on its way.

Do Not Clutch Onto Anything

Let’s imagine the unimaginable. The worst has happened and one is caught in the currents of a flash flood. The racing water is carrying you downstream. Expectedly, the first instinct is to try and clutch onto something like a protruding log on the banks of the river gorge. For one reason or the other, one may think they have the strength to overcome a force of nature such as the flowing currents of a flash flood. News flash! You do not.

Clutching onto something may leave you pinned against the banks of the river gorge. In such a helpless position, debris in the flowing water may be lunged one’s way either knocking one out or squeezing one, quite literally, between a rock and a hard place. One may also be pulled under the water either by the currents themselves or by debris flowing underneath the surface of the water leading to drowning. So what should one do if not to clutch for one’s dear life?

Ride the Water Like a Log

Well, that description might be a little cartoonish but generally, one should recline their head and point one’s legs downstream. Ride the water until you get to a place where the flow of water is much slower or weaker. Move close to the bank and get out of that situation. Sure, some things are easier said than done but having the calmness and presence of mind to pull off such a maneuver may very well save your life.

Do Not Cross the Flowing Water

As a matter of common sense do not cross flowing water from a flash flood. Perhaps one may be trying to reach their group on the other side of the gorge or just out of sheer hysteria in such a frightening moment. Even if the stream of water looks shallow or weakly flowing do not attempt to cross. There may be debris underwater that could trip you and the water will do the rest. The whole idea of how to survive a flash flood when hiking is to stay away from the water.

Leave Details of Your Hiking Group Behind

It is always advisable to note down personal information such as names, identification numbers and so on and leave behind such information with someone not tagging along on the hike. The details should also include the expected time of return so that any serious deviation from the ETA would raise an alarm.

Also, in the event of search and rescue efforts, it is easy to have a record of the people who are unaccounted for. Leaving such details behind may seem like accepting an unthinkable fate but is nonetheless a prudent thing to do.

All in all, hiking is fun and a popular activity amongst many people the world over. However, safety comes first in everything. Especially with kids. Consequently, here are 5 Kid-Friendly Hotels in Mombasa. Safe hiking!

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