Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards

2013 Edition
| Editors: Peter T. Bobrowsky

Flash Flood

  • Yang Hong
  • Pradeep Adhikari
  • Jonathan J. Gourley
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4399-4_136


Freshet; Huayco


A flash flood is a rapid flooding of water over land caused by heavy rain or a sudden release of impounded water (e.g., dam or levee break) in a short period of time, generally within minutes up to several hours, a timescale that distinguishes it from fluvial floods. It also includes freshet, which is a great rise or overflowing of a stream caused by heavy rains or melted snow and huayco or huaico (Quechua term waygu meaning “depth, valley”) which are Peruvian terms referring to flash floods caused by torrential rains in high mountains.


Characteristics: Flash floods are typically characterized by raging torrents in response to heavy rainfall that rip through riverbeds, urban streets, or mountain canyons sweeping away large debris and sediment with them. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) characterizes it as a flood with a quick rise in water surface elevation with abnormally high water velocity often creating a “wall” of water...

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  1. Colombo, A. G., Hervás, J., and Vetere-Arellano, A. L., 2002. Guidelines on Flash Flood Prevention and Mitigation. Italy: European Commission Joint Research Center.Google Scholar
  2. FEMA, 1981. Design Guidelines for Flood Damage Reduction. Washington, DC: Federal Emergency Management Agency.Google Scholar
  3. Smith, K., and Petley, D. N., 2008. Environmental Hazards: Assessing Risk and Reduction Disaster, 5th edn. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yang Hong
    • 1
  • Pradeep Adhikari
    • 2
  • Jonathan J. Gourley
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Civil Engineering and Environmental ScienceCenter for Natural Hazards and Disaster Research, National Weather Center, University of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Atmospheric Radar Research Center, University of OklahomaNormanUSA
  3. 3.NOAA National Severe Storms LaboratoryNormanUSA