Flooding does more than damage property. It can also lead to injury, illness and even death. Learn how to protect yourself and your property.
A heavy rainfall may not seem like a weather emergency, but it could easily turn into one. Flooding can occur anytime, anywhere. In fact, some regions that don’t have a cloud in the sky can experience flash flooding from a storm miles away.
Types of floods
Some floods occur when a river, stream or other body of water overflows. This may happen when there’s a steady rain for several days, or if there’s a quick, torrential downpour. Flooding can also result from a broken dam.
Flash floods happen suddenly. Because they can occur without warning, they can be especially dangerous. Flash flood waters are extremely forceful and often sweep away everything in their path. Their force can be even stronger if they happen at the same time as tropical storms or hurricane-force winds. If you reside in a low-lying area near any body of water, your flood risks are especially high.
If you hear that there’s a flood watch, it is possible that flooding could develop in your area. A flood warning means there is – or is about to be – a flood.
A flash flood watch means such flooding is possible and that you may need to evacuate. A flash flood warning means there is a flash flood and that you should move to higher ground right away.
If there is a flood watch in your area, stay tuned to the news and be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
Have a supply kit ready for any weather emergency. It should include:
- A three-day supply of food and water. Stock at least one gallon of water per person, per day.
- A flashlight.
- A portable radio.
- A first aid kit.
- Medications and medical supplies.
- Copies of important documents.
- Baby and pet supplies.
- Rain gear.
If you’re driving
If you’re in a car and suddenly find flooding in your path, turn around and go another way. If your car is suddenly caught on a flooded road, get out of the car right away and move quickly to higher ground. Keep in mind that:
- Just six inches of water can make you lose control of your car. It can also cause stalling.
- Your car can float in just one foot of water.
- Two feet of flash flood waters can sweep your car away.
If you need to evacuate
If you have to leave your home, turn off the utility switches and valves. Unplug all appliances before leaving. Don’t touch anything electrical if you are wet or standing in water.
Once you leave home, avoid walking through water, especially if it’s moving. Six inches of moving water can knock you down.
After the flood
The hazards of flooding don’t end once the waters recede. In fact, new dangers arise after a flood. You can prevent flood-related injury and illness by taking these precautions:
- Avoid any remaining flood waters. They could be contaminated with chemicals or sewage, or electrically charged from downed power lines.
- Watch where you go. Don’t enter a building that is still surrounded by flood waters.
- Inspect your home before entering. Look for loose power lines and damaged gas lines. Also look for structural damage.
- Use your nose and ears. Leave immediately and call 9-1-1 if you smell gas or hear hissing noises.
- Be cautious of creatures. Check your home for poisonous snakes or other wildlife that may have entered with the flood waters.
- Find out if your town’s water supply is safe. If you’re not sure, do not wash with it or drink it.
- Protect your skin. Wear rubber gloves and protective clothing when you clean up your home.
- Disinfect anything that got wet. Contamination from sewage and chemicals is possible. Throw away food, utensils, plates, cups, baby bottles, and anything else that may have come into contact with water or mud.
- Throw out any item in your home that has been wet for more than 48 hours. Mold can form, causing asthma attacks and other health conditions.
- Examine and service sewage systems as soon as possible. If they are damaged, they can pose serious health threats.