Flash flood swift water rescues, Texas, 2005–2014

Vaidehi Shah, Katie R. Kirsch, Diana Cervantes, David F. Zane, Tracy Haywood, Jennifer A. Horney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Although rainfall patterns are complex and difficult to predict, climate models suggest precipitation in Texas will occur less frequently and with greater intensity in the future. In combination with rapid population growth and development, extreme rainfall events are likely to lead to flash floods and necessitate swift water rescues. Swift water rescues are used to retrieve person(s) from swift water flowing at a rate of 1 knot or greater. Data were obtained from the Texas Fire Marshal's Office and analyzed to describe spatial and temporal characteristics of rescues. Between 2005 and 2014, 3256 swift water rescues were reported from 136 of 254 (54%) counties. Over half (54.6%, n = 1777) occurred in counties known as Flash Flood Alley, which includes Texas’ largest and fastest growing cities. Less than 1.0% (n = 18) were reported from 49 counties designated as completely rural, or with an urban population less than 2500. Increases in swift water rescues were seen between March and September and during major weather events such as tropical storms. Because county-level data was utilized and demographic data was missing in all but 2% (n = 47) of the incidents, our ability to identify populations at risk or target interventions in the future using this data is limited. Despite the frequency of flash flood events and swift water rescues in Texas, knowledge gaps persist that should be addressed through the conduct of interdisciplinary research by epidemiologists and climatologists and by disseminating evidence-based health education and safety programs, particularly in rapidly growing counties that make up Texas’ Flash Flood Alley.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalClimate Risk Management
StatePublished - 2017


  • Flash flood
  • Population growth
  • Precipitation intensity
  • Swift water
  • Technical rescue


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