Flooding Spotlight


Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Floods can be local and impact single towns or communities or can be widespread affecting entire river basins and multiple states. Some floods develop slowly during periods of steady rain while flash floods can come about more quickly, sometimes with little warning. Flash floods can often be accompanied by a wall of water that carries rocks, mud, and other debris, sweeping away most things in its path. Flooding is very dangerous to both people and property. Quickly moving water can be particularly dangerous and can bury houses, destroy bridges and carry off cars, animals and even people. According to the Weather Channel, just six inches of quickly moving water can knock a person down and just two feet of water is enough to float a large car or bus.

Every state in the United States is at risk from flooding. Areas that are low-lying, near water, or downstream from a dam are at an increased risk for flooding. Even small bodies of water, dry streambeds and low lying land may be harmlesss in dry weather but can flood and very quickly become dangerous under the right conditions.

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Flood on Adams
Did you know? Did you know...
  • Just six inches of water will reach the bottom of most cars, causing loss of steering control and stalling your engine
  • Two feet of rushing water can wash most vehicles away including SUVs and pick-up trucks
  • Water depth is not always discernable; DO NOT attempt to drive through a road that’s flooded;
  • Flash floods rank as the number one weather-related killer in the U.S.
  • A flash flood is caused by rapid flooding resulting from intense rainstorms in low lying areas in under 6 hours
  • Flash floods can displace boulders, rip out trees and destroy buildings and bridges

A flood (or flash flood) watch is issued if flooding is possible. You should tune into NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

A flood (or flash flood) warning means that flooding is occurring or will occur soon. If you are advised to evacuate you should do so immediately.

Before a Flood

To prepare for a flood you should consider the following tips from FEMA and the CDC:

  • Avoid building in flood prone areas unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate your furnace, water heater, and electrical panel if you live in an area susceptible to flooding.
  • Install sump pumps with back-up power if you live in a flood-prone area.
  • Install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into drains of your home.
  • Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes and locations of emergency shelters.
  • Inform local authorities of any special needs, i.e. anyone with a disability, bedridden.
  • Contact community officials to find out if they are planning to construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the homes in your area.
  • Seal your basement walls with waterproofing compounds to prevent seepage.
  • Have as part of your emergency kit water-purifying supplies, rubber boots, waterproof gloves and insect repellent containing DEET, permethrin or picaridin.

During a Flood

If you live in an area prone to flooding you should review the following suggestions from FEMA:

  • Listen to the media for information.
  • Be aware of flash flooding. If there is a possibility of flash flooding you should move to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of bodies of water or other flood prone areas around you that flood quickly. Flash floods can occur without typical flood warnings like rain clouds or heavy rain.

If you evacuate:

  • Secure your home, bring outdoor furniture in, and move essential items to the top floor.
  • Turn off your utilities at the main switches or valves if you are instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical appliances if you are wet or in standing water.
  • Do not walk through moving water. It only takes six inches of moving water to sweep someone off their feet. Also, check the firmness of the ground in front of you by using a stick.
  • Do not drive in flooded areas; do not camp or park your car or truck near rivers, creeks or streams when severe weather threatens
  • Place essential documents such as medical records and insurance cards in a waterproof container.

After a Flood

In the period following a flood:

  • Continue to stay up to date with the media.
  • Learn if your community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters which may be contaminated or electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Do not venture near moving water.
  • Be careful in areas where floodwaters have receded- the ground may not be stable.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and call the power company to report.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate that it is safe.
  • Stay out of buildings surrounded by floodwater.
  • Be wary when entering buildings as there may be unseen damage, especially to foundations.
  • Damaged sewage systems can cause serious health hazards; repair damages to septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible.
  • Clean and disinfect everything contaminated by floodwaters.
  • Once it is safe to return to your home take photos and call your insurance company.