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Are you ready for a flood? (PDF file from American Red Cross)

  1. Flood waters can be extremely dangerous. The force of six inches of swiftly moving water can knock people off their feet. The best protection during a flood is to leave the area and go to shelter on higher ground.
  2. Flash flood waters move at very fast speeds and can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings, and obliterate bridges. Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and generally are accompanied by a deadly cargo of debris. The best response to any signs of flash flooding is to move immediately and quickly to higher ground.
  3. Cars can be easily be swept away in just 2 feet of moving water. If flood waters rise around a car, it should be abandoned. Passengers should climb to higher ground.

Danger Zones

Floods and flash floods occur within all 50 states. Communities particularly at risk are those located in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream from a dam.

What Is a Flood?

Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters--except fire. Most communities in the United States can experience some kind of flooding after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms, or winter snow thaws. Floods can be slow, or fast rising but generally develop over a period of days.

Dam failures are potentially the worst flood events. A dam failure is usually the result of neglect, poor design, or structural damage caused by a major event such as an earthquake. When a dam fails, a gigantic quantity of water is suddenly let loose downstream, destroying anything in its path.

What Is a Flash Flood?

Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. Flash floods occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes.

Before the Flood

What You Can Do:

  • Know your flood risk and elevation above flood stage.
  • Do your local streams or rivers flood easily? If so, be prepared to move to a place of safety. Know your evacuation routes.
  • Keep your automobile fueled; if electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for several days.
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs and in various containers. Water service may be interrupted.
  • Keep a stock of food that requires little cooking and no refrigeration; electric power may be interrupted.
  • Keep first aid supplies on hand.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio, a battery-powered portable radio, emergency cooking equipment, and flashlights in working order. Install check valves in building sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit containing: first aid kit, canned food and can opener, bottled water, rubber boots, rubber gloves, NOAA Weather Radio, battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.

Stay informed about the storm by listening to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, and television for the latest flash flood/flood watches, warnings, and advisories.

NOAA weather radio is the best means to receive warnings from the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts that can be received by NOAA Weather Radios sold in many stores. Average range is 40 miles, depending on topography. Your National Weather Service recommends purchasing a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.

What to Listen For:

  • Flash Flood or Flood Watch: Flash flooding or flooding is possible within the designated WATCH area be alert.
  • Flash Flood or Flood Warning: Flash flooding or flooding has been reported or is imminent take necessary precautions at once.
  • Urban and Small Stream Advisory: Flooding of small streams, streets, and low-lying areas, such as railroad underpasses and urban storm drains, is occurring.
  • Flash Flood or Flood Statement: Follow-up information regarding a flash flood/flood event.

The rule for being safe in a flooding situation is simple: Head for higher ground and stay away from flood waters!

Take Action!

When a flash flood watch is issued, be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice.

When a flash flood warning is issued for your area, or the moment you realize that a flash flood is imminent, act quickly to save yourself. You may have only seconds!

Go to Higher Ground or Climb to Safety!

  • Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
  • Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
  • If driving, be aware that the road bed may not be intact under flood waters. Turn around and go another way. NEVER drive through flooded roadways!
  • If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away. Remember, it's better to be wet than dead!
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.

When you Receive a Flood Warning:

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water.
  • continue monitoring NOAA Weather Radio, television, or emergency broadcast station for information.

During the Flood

  • Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.
  • If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, STOP! Turn around and go another way.
  • Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Children should NEVER play around high water, storm drains, viaducts, or arroyos.

After the Flood

  • If fresh food has come in contact with flood waters, throw it out.
  • Boil drinking water before using. Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority.
  • Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital. Food, clothing, shelter, and first aid are available from the Red Cross.
  • Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
  • Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
  • Use flashlights, not lanterns, torches or matches, to examine buildings. Flammables may be inside.
  • Report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.

Special thanks to University of Missouri Extension Center, North Dakota State University Extension Center, and Lincoln University Extension Center.

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