When Nature Strikes: What Should You Do When Flash Floods Threaten?

Students read and view videos to understand the dangers threatened by flash floods.
Students play a Jeopardy-type game to reinforce what they have learned so they know what to do should a flash flood occur where they are.
Next, they explore radar and satellite images, color-coded maps, and other resources to answer questions about predicting where flash floods might happen.
If time permits, they may develop a presentation to share what they have learned with younger students and/or community groups.
Created by NESTA/Windows member Michael J Passow with online resources provided by the National Weather Service, FEMA, and other agencies. "When Nature Strikes" is produced by NBC Learn in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
Grade level:
7 - 9
2 -3 class periods
Student Learning Outcomes:
Students will study the basic factors producing flash floods through readings and videos.
Students will learn about technologies used to monitor flash floods and safety rules to follow if a flood occurs.
If time and interest permit, students may create a presentation about flood safety to be shared with younger children and their community.
Lesson format:
Students start by reading background information and view videos of flash floods. Then they play a Jeopardy-type game to reinforce what they have learned. Next, they use online resources from the National Weather Service and other federal agencies to go deeper into how meteorologists can monitor conditions and forecast the probability of flash floods. Students may finish this unit by creating a presentation which they share with younger students.

Standards Addressed:

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:
ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems
ESS2.C The Roles of Water in Earth Systems
ESS2.D Weather and Climate
ESS3.B Natural Hazards
ESS3.D Global Climate Change
ETS1.B Developing Possible Solutions
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
NGSS Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science:
Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology
NGSS Connections to Nature of Science:
Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena
Scientific Knowledge Assumes an order and Consistency in Natural Systems


1. View the "When Nature Strikes: Flash Floods" video.

2. Gain additional understanding through the Background Information, especially about the power of potential threats shown in videos of flash floods and other linked resources.

3. Test your understanding by playing the Jeopardy-type game created for this lesson. You can do this by yourself or in teams.

4. Next, complete the "How Can Flash Floods Be Forecast" activity using the linked online resources.

5. If time and interest permit, create a presentation about flash floods to be shared with younger students and your community.


Assess the students' responses to the questions in the Jeopardy-type game and throughout the lesson. Use class discussion to gently correct any misconceptions. Develop an appropriate rubric for how students present their understanding as they participate in the discussion.


There are no lab safety issues.


No cleanup is required.


Extensions: How should you prepare for flash floods in your community?

The "When Nature Strikes" program seeks to inspire students and other viewers to learn more about natural hazards so you will be better aware in advance of how to prepare for such events and what to do should one occur. One of the best ways to enhance your knowledge is to teach it to others.

Create a slideshow, video, or other presentation to educate younger students in your school system or a community group about the dangers if flash floods in your community.

You should include answers to these questions:

  • How likely is your State to be affected by flash floods? Your Community?
  • Which States are most likely to experience flash floods? How does yours compare?
  • What have been some of the biggest flash floods ever?
  • What agency has official responsibility to issue watches and warnings?
  • What is the difference between a Flash Flood Watch? Flash Flood Warning?
  • What should every school and home have to receive notices of approaching flash flood conditions?
  • What should people in your community do to prepare for flash floods?
  • Where can you find answers to frequently asked questions about flash floods?

Here are selected links that may help you to get started:


Almost anywhere you are, heavy rainfall can produce a dangerous flash flood. Even if you are camping high on a mountain, a slow-moving thunderstorm can cause streams to rise quickly and threaten your campsite. Flash floods can occur in areas that are far away from where the rain falls: you could be riding in a car in a desert and water which fell many miles away in the mountains can rush toward you down what is normally a dry stream bed. Learn more in the "Background information about Flash Floods" provided in the Materials Section.



Last modified April 28, 2016 by Jennifer Bergman.

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