Are You Ready Series: Floods and Flash Flooding
In the Spring, many of us brace our self for what could be a very wet season. Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States that can be felt locally or have a much larger impact on cities or even states. The damage done by floods does not only encompass damaged homes and property, but can displace families permanently.
Educating yourself on knowing the warning signs of flooding and what to do in times of floods can help you better prepare your family and your home when a flood is imminent.
All Floods Are Not Created Equal
Those that live in low lying areas are more susceptible to flooding. Different types of flooding can affect these flood plains. There are floods that can develop slowly, giving people time to prepare, and there are floods that can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes and without any visible signs of rain.
- River Flooding – Flooding along rivers can occur seasonally from melting snow, high rainfall, decaying hurricanes or intense rain storms that swell river beds.
- Coastal Flooding – Tropical storms, hurricanes and tsunamis can drive water inland thus creating flooding. This type of flooding can block escape routes thus making it impossible to flee.
- Urban Flooding – As land is converted from fields and woodlands, it loses it’s ability to absorb large amounts of rainfall. According to the United States Search and Rescue, urbanization increases run off by 2 to 6 times what would occur on normal terrain. During this type of flooding, streets can fill up with water causing river-like conditions.
- Flash floods – Flash flooding often has a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud, and other debris and can sweep away most things in its path. This type of flooding can occur due to intense rain storms lasting longer periods of time, or can occur due to a breach in a levee or overflow of a river. Tyically, flash flooding occurs around streams, rivers, canals, storm drains, flood control channels, canyon and caves.
Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you live in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry stream beds, or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood. Every state is at risk from this hazard.
Know the Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a flood hazard:
- Flood Watch- Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
- Flash Flood Watch- Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
- Flood Warning- Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Flash Flood Warning- A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
Preparing for Floods
Before a Flood
To prepare for a flood, you should:
Avoid building in a flood plain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
Install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
Construct barriers (levees, beams, flood walls) to stop floodwater from entering the building.
Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
During a Flood
If a flood is likely in your area, you should:
Listen to the radio or television for information.
Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.
If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:
Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water
If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
Do not drive into flooded areas. If flood waters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.
Driving Flood Facts
The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:
Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
A foot of water will float many vehicles.
Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
After a Flood
The following are guidelines for the period following a flood:
Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
Avoid flood waters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
Avoid moving water.
Be aware of areas where flood waters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by flood waters.
Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
- Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
Teach kids about flooding
Repairing your flooded home
Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.
Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals.
Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.
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