Spring/Summer Weather Series: The Danger of Floods
There really isn’t a flood season as floods happen almost year round, for different reasons per season. Spring presents the combination of changing weather going all the way from the melting snows of winter into changing from freezing temperatures at the beginning, to the introduction of summer like humidity and returning to cooler weathers later to outright sultry humidity that can wring with wretched rains that can knock your socks off. Summer and fall present the rains of Hurricanes and any time there is unstable air and differences in temperature, flooding rains are not out of the question. Don’t count winter out either, because the snows and/or differences winter presents in temperature, snow melts and more can make winter a disastrous season for flooding rains. The amount of property damage and injury plus deaths that have been known to occur during a flood can be very devastating, and bring property damage and losses of family memories. The largest amount of rain to flood the U.S. was The Johnstown Flood was so massive it equaled the flow of the Mississippi River. Stereoscopic view showing the disastrous condition of Main Street in Johnstown, Pennsylvania soon after the flood in 1889. Other areas of the Earth have regions where the rain keeps coming down due to seasons called “monsoons”. The U.S. has monsoon season, in the desert areas of the southwest section including California, Arizona, and New Mexico. This season is a winter pattern, coincidentally responsible for the mudslides in California. I will be featuring a clear and concise posts as the series of “Spring & Summer Weather Series” continues throughout the spring and summer months.
BE READY FOR FLOODING NOW!
Does the Forecast Involve Excessive Rain or Flooding?
As informed by the National Weather Service in the article: Flood Safety Tips and Resources, flooding can be more than just depressing, it can be a downright catastrophe. Here are the demographics in any case of excess rain in a less than moderate amount of time:
Tips: Preparedness Before, During & After Flooding Waters:
PREPARATION BEFORE THE FLOOD:
Preparation is a very important of the process of making through a flooding period, and being ready. Here are some tips and pointers to assisting you in making sure that you are prepared for the flood, way before it shows up on your doorstep:
- Create a Communications Plan! It’s important to be able to communicate with your family and friends if disaster strikes. Having a specific person identified to contact for status updates and having a safe location to meet up with family members is crucial. Have a plan in place if disaster does strike.
- Assemble an Emergency Kit! Assembly of enough food, water and medicine on hand at all times to last at least 3 days in the case of any emergency.
- Water service may become interrupted or unsafe to drink
- Food may not be able to be cooked
- No refrigeration may be available if electric power is interrupted
- First aid kit
- Rubber boots
- Rubber gloves
- A NOAA Weather Radio or other battery operated radio
- Know Your Risk! Make sure you access whether or not that your home, business or school is on a floodplain. Make sure that you discuss this with your insurance agent before disaster strikes. Maske sure that you identify the source of nearby water and where the risks are. Are there roadways you most often travel where water is likely to collect on? Identify an escape plan:
- The roadways
- A Walking path
- The fastest way to get to higher ground
Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can mean the difference of saving your life in time of crisis.
- Sign Up for Notifications! Keep informed at the NOAA/National Weather Service: Water web-page.
- Sign Up for Notifications! Get notifications for the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service RSS feeds for observed forecast and alert conditions about local water conditions.
- Prepare Your Home: Sometimes floods develop slowly and forecasters can anticipate floods days or even weeks before they occur. Other times, flash floods can occur within minutes without any sign of oncoming rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind::
- Sandbags or other materials to protect your home from flooding water. Having sufficient time to do so is crucial, because filling sandbags can take longer than you think and in crisis, you may not have enough time.
- Have a professional install backup check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from coming back the opposite way through the drains in your home.
- Make sure your sump pump is in proper working order and consider a backup.
- Make sure your electric circuit breakers or fuses, are marked clearly to represent each area of your home.
- Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover floods! Ensure coverage on your home and it’s belongings by contacting your insurance agent to purchase proper flood insurance. This must be done before way before there is an event or a threat of flooding. Insurance companies pay attention to zones and once a threat is issued, they stop issuing policies until there is no longer a threat of flooding. (i.e. an approaching hurricane, or storms cross country impending). Yet even, many flood insurance policies have provisions that take at least 30 days for benefits to go into effect, so that even if you can buy it as a storm is approaching, it may not have protection, if you do not act before a flood.
- Take photos way before any incident: Take photos for insurance purposes and also so you know what may be lost, should disaster strike. These photos and comparable photos right before you leave will make the claim process a cinch later, if a disaster happens.
- Prepare your Family/Pets:
Due to possible evacuation, pack in advance. Don’t procrastinate gathering essentials for yourself, your family and/or your pets.
- Keep your Essential Electronics Charged: Make sure that your cell phone, portable radios, flashlights and other instruments fully charged in case you lose power and/or need to evacuate. Also have back-up batteries for all the above on hand.
- Leave: Without having to be evacuated, make the decision to get out, if it is likely your home will flood. You don’t have to wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself! Make sure you take another quick set of photos. Try to make sure GPS location set is on while taking , as it helps prove that they were taken before the storm. Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make accommodations for boarding them at a friends, family or a facility well away from harm’s way.
- If you can, give blood regularly: Health permitting, make sure you do your part to make sure that the local blood banks are fully restored before a disaster.
DURING THE FLOOD:
If you are present during the arrival of flooding conditions, here are some tips and pointers to assisting you in making sure that you are prepared for the conditions of having a flood on your doorstep:
- Monitor the levels of water at all times: The water levels and the rate the water is flowing can quickly change, so remain aware and monitor local radio and television outlets frequently. Avoid the flood waters and evacuate immediately if and when water starts to rise. Make a decision promptly and don’t wait until it is too late!
- Stay Informed: Listen to radio and television, including NOAA Weather Radio and if possible, check the Internet and social media for the latest information and updates.
- Get to Higher Ground: If you live in a flood prone area or are camping in a low lying area, get to higher ground immediately. If you notice incoming water of any levels, evacuate immediately.
- Obey Evacuation Orders: If you are told to evacuate, please do so immediately. Lock up when you leave. If you have time, disconnect any and all utilities and if possible, appliances.
- Practice Electrical Safety: Do not go into the basement, or any room if and when water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged under water. If you see sparking or hear buzzing, crackling, snapping and/or popping noises–get out immediately! Stay out of standing water that possibly has electricity in it!
- Avoid Flood Waters: Do not walk through flood waters, as it only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off of your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest point and call 9-1-1 if it is possible. Do NOT drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade–Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as:
- sharp objects
- washed out road surfaces
- electrical wires
A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds with just 12 inches of water, and 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles, or a small SUV. A cubic yard of water weighs 1,686 pounds, so add in movement so you see the power of water. You don’t stand a chance walking, so don’t even try!
AFTER WATER RECEDES:
When The flood waters recede, the damage left behind by the water, all things involved with it and the trauma and elements can be devastating and present many dangers. Flood destruction can depict:
- Destruction to homes and buildings
- Missing, damaged and destroyed possessions
- Missing and destroyed vehicles
- Decimated roadways
However, what you can’t see can be very dangerous. Floodwaters often become contaminated with sewage or chemicals, and these elements are left behind in your decimated possessions, buildings and vehicles. Gas leaks and live power lines can be left on and are deadly if not discovered, and are not obvious at first glance, so be very careful!
- Stay Informed: Stay tuned to your local news for updated information on road conditions.
- Water Safety: Ensure water is safe to drink, cook and/or clean with after the flood. Pay attention to the authorities for boil orders, so the water is safe to use after a flood. Pay particular attention to the utility companies about restoration and note that the companies often have apps to update you about getting service back. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after a storm that deals with power outages due to the improper use and or placement of a portable generator. Never use a portable generator inside your home, garage or other closed space. For safety information on use of generators, you can review the following: Carbon Monoxide Dangers.
- Avoid Flood Waters: Standing water likely hide many dangers including toxins, bacteria and chemicals. Also there may be hidden sharp objects under the water. There may also be collapsed roadway, ground, missing manhole covers, and you never can tell how deep the water is once it is covered by water. If it’s likely your home will flood, don’t wait for an evacuation order, just get out! Talk to your neighbors, friends and family about emergency visits. If you have pets, make accommodations and take them with you or somehow get them to safety.
- Avoid Disaster Areas: If you are not trained or a professional, please do not visit disaster areas. Your presence may delay a rescue and other emergency operations that is underway because of concern that you may be injured. It is always the right thing to make sure that this does not happen, because in any emergency situation, time is of essence
- Obey Road Closed and Caution Signs: Road closure and other cautionary signs are not designed to be decorative, and are put in place with safety in mind. Paying attention to them often can mean the difference between life and injury!
- Wait for the “All Clear”: Do not go back to enter your property or searching for items including vehicles until you’re given the “All Clear” by the authorities. If you enter flood damaged buildings and grounds, be extremely careful. Buildings and grounds can be unstable, so water can cause the floods to a further collapse, a ceiling to fall, or other unseen problems. Make sure that the electrical system has been disconnected before entry. Have the power company or a qualified electrician fix any wiring. Contact your insurance agent to evaluate property damage. If you have a generator, follow proper safety procedures: FEMA Portable Generators and Winter Storms (The tips and pointers are still valid for summer storms).
- Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay. Login to Facebook and share your “marked safe” status on either the app or online. Give permission for them to spread the word so you are able to focus on cleaning up the disaster.
- Call your insurance agent: Make an appointment through your insurance agency to have an adjuster dispatched to access the damages. Make sure that you photograph anything you do in an emergency repair situation, so that reimbursement can be accessed after the fact. Anything you do must be documented properly, in order for the adjuster to apply a reimbursement for damages. The agent will be able to give a timetable for getting you back on track and for assisting you in being able to have resources for hiring professionals to repair your property, vehicles or other elements–and get your life back on track again.
RESOURCES & RECOVERY AFTER DISASTER: THE HOME & FAMILY + FINANCIAL TOOLKIT:
There are many disaster and emergency preparedness and assistance resources available for you to help you through the hard times rebuilding:
- American Red Cross: redcross.org
- American Red Cross – Contact and Locate Loved Ones: redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief/contact-and-locate-loved-ones
- American Red Cross – Find an Open Shelter: redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery/find-an-open-shelter
- American Red Cross – Safe and Well: 1-800-RedCross (1-800-733-2767)
- Apps – American Red Cross: redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps. Separate apps cover the subjects of: blood, earthquake, emergency, first aid, flooding, hero care, hurricanes, pet first aid, tornadoes, and wildfires.
- Pet owner disaster preparation and assistance (ASPCA): aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/aspca-mobile-app. This can assist with personalized missing pet recovery kits, creating digital lost pet flyers that can be shared instantly on the user’s social networks, advice on what to do with your pet before, during and after a storm or natural disaster, and the ability store a pet’s vital medical records and dietary needs, which can shave off precious time in the event of an emergency. This information can be easily stored and shared for your convenience as well.
- DisasterAssistance.gov: disasterassistance.gov provides information on how you might be able to get help from the U.S. Government before, during and after a disaster. If the President makes help available to individuals in your community after a disaster, you can visit this site to apply online.
- Disaster Distress Helpline: disasterdistress.samhsa.gov SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters and is dedicated to providing year-round immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories.
- Call: Call 1-800-985-5990 to talk live with a trained crisis counselor. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.
- Text: “TalkWithUs“ to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): fema.gov FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
- Military OneSource: militaryonesource.mil Offers various articles and resources for emergency preparedness and natural disasters.
- Money Management in Times of Disaster: personal-finance.extension.org/money-management-in-times-of-disaster with information about Money Management during times of disaster:
- Money management in times of disaster: Preparation
- Returning to your damaged home
- Managing finances and making decisions after a disaster
- Ready.gov: ready.gov Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation. Ready and its Spanish language version Listo ask individuals to do three key things: (1) build an emergency supply kit, (2) make a family emergency plan and (3) be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses.
- Sesame Street (Emergency Toolkits): sesamestreet.org/toolkits/emergencies has simple and easy resources to help you help children and others recover from an emergency.
- The National Terror Alert Response Center: Nationalterroralert.com is a private homeland security blog and not affiliated with any government agency. We archive and comment on homeland security related news items from a variety of news sources and tips, as well as provide immediate updates on breaking stories, bulletins and any change in status to Homeland Security advisory. Nationalterroralert.com has become America’s leading source for homeland security news and information. A collaborative resource of news and analysis related to homeland security events, threats and trends. The National Terror Alert Response Network promotes homeland security emergency preparedness through awareness, education, community involvement and partnerships between individuals, groups and organizations. We strive to chronicle homeland security related news, trends and events in an effort to create national awareness and focus. It is our belief that through education and awareness some instances of terrorism may be prevented and through preparedness lives can be saved.
- TriCare: tricare.mil/disasterinfo In the event of a natural disaster, TriCare US Family Health Plan will post disaster-related information on their homepage. It’s important to know that your TriCare benefits will be maintained during any time of crisis. In the event of evacuation, please take the necessary precautions. In the case of an emergency, dial 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room. Click on an icon below (on the TriCare website) to read alerts and emergency information in your area.
- TriCare emergency prescription refills: At times during emergencies, TriCare may authorize early refills for prescriptions. You can receive notifications from tricare.mil/disasterinfo if early refills are authorized. TriCare officials remind beneficiaries that early refills are only authorized for beneficiaries who specifically indicate they are impacted by the emergency event.
When disaster strikes, this list helps assist you in getting the help and assistance that you need in order to put your life back together.
Flood Myths and Facts:
- Myth: You are able to out-drive a flood
Fact: It is not possible to guarantee that any type of driving or attempting to out-drive a flood would lead to any type of safer ground. Like any type of panic, attempting to out-run a looming flood is usually done without though and can lead to sloppy mistakes of facing the elements without a plan. By trying to out-run a flood only increases chances to and finding trouble before being lead to safety.
- Myth: You are able to out-run a flood.
Fact: It very dangerous ground to be walking around through flooding water, with the elements of not being able to see the ground. Running makes danger even closer, because it is very easy to stumble onto the dangers of not really being able to see what you are walking into or on top of. Open manholes, glass, shrapnel, sharp objects. . .sometimes moving at even fast speeds in the moving water, can lead to injury, drowning and death, really fast and without warning. Desperation and sloppiness. . .and no plan, except scurrying in the uncharted danger of flooding waters is a gamble worth never getting involved in. Always stay away from any puddles that you cannot see the ground!
- Myth: The puddle isn’t too long, so I am safe.
Fact: Any area in which you cannot actually see the ground, and deciding to walk on top of it, no matter how short it may seem, is a disaster waiting to happen. If it’s puddled over, paddle over! Never walk on water!!
- Myth: I will be safe seeking shelter from the rainfall under an over-pass or viaduct, under a canopy or in a dock area.
Fact: Even though it may be enticing to seek the shelter of the protection of being under an over-pass or viaduct to stay out of rain, the fact is that an over-pass or viaduct are subject to the usuality of being a lower ground than surrounding areas. Water can move towards any low ground at a high rate of speed. In my experience of living to tell in the 1-in-1,000 year 24-hour rainfall on July 16, 1996 (16.94 inches in Aurora, Illinois), where I left on a business run to a dock area and dropped off an order, and only seven minutes after I was at that dock, I received a call from employees at the dock to verify that I was not in the area, and that the dock was under seventeen feet of water. That is a lot of water really quick. Almost a megaton of water! I was near a railroad while taking that call and the water was coming out of a nearby railroad track and the water was going up the tracks instead of down. I had to ride off the side of the road on top of higher, luckily parched grass in order lead myself to safety. Make sure you examine the area, and never go under something to avoid rainfall if the ground level leads to lowering elevation.
- Myth: We already had a flood several times, so since the likelihood of another flood is low, we are safe.
Fact: Floods tend to strike same, lower level areas before higher ground, but sometimes do not follow the same rules! Even being in the middle of a hill before the lowest area can lead to problems with fetching water that is poised and falling to the lower areas, becoming a real danger and leading to some flooding. You really cannot play the odds when it comes to flood safety. Rationalizing flooding water is not going to keep a second strike from happening. Lower areas tend to require flood insurance due to the fact that they are more likely to see flooding waters. Always be safe and stay away from lower areas, including the hilly areas in between high and low ground, and do not rationalize or justify the odds of a flood “staying away”.
- Myth: I live in the big city in a skyscraper, so I am completely safe, because I am high above the water danger.
Fact: As It may be an instinct to think “I am several stories above ground – So I am completely safe from the risk for flooding!” However, many of the critical systems that are part of high-rise buildings, including boilers, elevators, generators and water pumps, are located underground, so the risk to those systems in flooding waters put the whole building at total risk. To make matters worse, although not at odds to happen, if water moves fast enough, the whole skyscraper is at total risk of being swept away off the foundation from the bottom. Being high up inside a skyscraper could put high risk of the arising of dangerous safety problems, whereby chance of escape could be cut off, thereby putting risk and chances of injury and death a true possibility.
- Myth: A large lake will protect nearby areas from a flood due to the dynamics of the pond.
Fact: Even though the effect of the lake being there for the intake of flooding waters, being near the lake in any way is dangerous due to the fact that a lake fills up rather quickly. Always stay far away from any lakes, retention pond, river, creek, ditch or dry river.
- Myth: The rain stopped, so I am completely safe from a flood.
Fact: Flooding, especially flash flooding is about timing. The larger the amount of water, the more resistance to flowing downstream. The flood or storms can be completely out of the area, but flows of waters–even states away, can be devastating to areas and people downstream from a flood moving into the rivers and cavernous areas from flooded areas can be subject to flash flooding due to the movement down the stream over a period of time. If authorities come in and ask for evacuation or request for sand-bagging, do what is necessary without delay!
- Myth: I live in the mountains, not the valley, so I am safe from any floods.
Fact: Even a the top of a mountain, and conditions aren’t optimal for flooding, no place is immune from the damage of a high amount of water being dropped in a short period of time. Making matters worse, areas between the top down into valleys can lead to water moving sometimes at very high and dangerous speeds. Water seeks lower ground due to gravity. There is a lot of gravity in and around a range of mountains. Try as much as possible to be in a designated safety area. Meet with people who have safety credentials to find an engineering solution to seeking the safest venue to be near to escape the perils of flooding waters. Practice safety plans and be prepared.
- Myth: There isn’t much wind, so floods aren’t as dangerous.
Fact: Flooding rain doesn’t need any wind to be dangerous. Water moves due to gravity as well as wind, and speed of oncoming water can move at very dangerous and devastating speeds. The flooding water can show up and move cars, semis, whole buildings, it can uproot whole very large trees, and more! Just one cubic yard (that is 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet) weighs 1,685.6 pounds, between 3/4 of a ton and a ton! If you have knowledge of pool water, you know that water is very heavy! Moving water can wipe out any object imaginable. Wind while making matters worse is not an insurance policy for no devastation!
- Myth: The warehouse has a new roof, so it is completely safe from a flooding rain.
Fact: Engineering for roofs are not having flooding waters raging over them. They meet standards and specifications that are within a certain parameter. Just because a roof is only a year old doesn’t make it completely safe from the perils of raging waters of a flood. Yes, they are safer–but not completely safe from any condition presented. Make sure that you are ready for the outcome of flooding water. Don’t rationalize or reason with a “new” roof being completely safe
- Myth: It is the winter months, so it is completely safe from flooding because it is too cold.
Fact: The imposition of thinking that floods don’t happen in winter months is room for terrible trouble. Actually winter presents its own array of flooding dangers–ice jams (Water being backed up by ice in a waterfall or even a downspout), rainfall due to differences in temperatures to areas north and south of another area, rain falling on ice and snow, amounting to high amounts of quick melting–plus the rain falling at the same time, and way more winter scenarios. Don’t be fooled by low and freezing temperatures being an insurance policy for flooding. . .winter is not at all a safe period of which there is no flooding!
- Myth: The Sun is out, so I am safe from flooding.
- Fact: Flash flooding can happen days, and sometimes even weeks and very far away from where the floods originate from. Being downstream always leaves anyone in its path at risk. Don’t be fooled by the weather conditions preceding a flash flood. Be ready by sandbagging or whatever is suggested. Water always seeks level until it meets sea-level.
- Myth: Climate change is affecting flooding.
- Fact: The fact is flooding has been happening since ancient times. I seen reports of opinions based on climate change, Same areas had different reports, and no scientific facts to back up any report on either dis. The fact is, you cannot rely on scientific opinions that an area is safe or even dangerous based on climactic changes. Low lying areas and areas in between hills are always going to be more dangerous than higher areas–with or without climate change..
- Myth: The rain coming down at a high rate of speed is the most dangerous part of the flood.
- Fact: The fact is that drowning is the single most popular reason for death in flooding. But the reasons people drown starts from different series of reasons. Pre-injury like sharp objects floating and having a head injury first and preceding drowning are more likely the outcome of drowning is high. Flowing water can lift you off the ground resulting in injury before drowning occurs. Alway take care to stay away from water moving, especially at high speeds.
Floods are a nasty fact of life, and happen in conjunction with other phenomenon like hurricanes, thunderstorms and just by themselves–by having storms or rains just not going away quick enough–or coming in from other areas. It is never any fun! Don’t let the next flood be your last! Pay proper attention and be safe! They are not going away forever, and we need to be prepared, and be safe.
FLOOD PREPAREDNESS & RESOURCES
Hurricane Preparedness Kit, courtesy of the Ward Law Group:
FIND YOUR LOCAL NOAA.com WEATHER RADIO STATION:
FIND YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST:
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