Don Becker, USGS
Floods kill an average of 46 people each year in the US, and one of the worst times for flooding is late winter/early spring. The saturated ground and melting snow can lead to dangerous conditions. Flooding can occur slowly and predictably due to known rainfall or snowmelt (normally taking more than 6 hours to occur).
But flooding can also happen in the blink of an eye as a violent and unforeseen flash flood due to heavy spring rainfall, dam or levee failure, or the sudden release of water from an ice-jammed river. Here are ten tips to keep you safe in this season of high water.
1. Keep an ear to local radio and TV stations to stay informed. In low-lying or flood-prone areas, a NOAA weather radio with an alarm might be a life-saver.
2. Expect it. Flooding is the most common type of natural disaster worldwide: Up to 40 percent of all natural disasters each year are flood related.
3. Don’t try to drive or walk through moving flood waters. Just two feet of fast moving water can sweep away most vehicles, even SUVs and trucks. And it only takes 6 inches of rushing water to knock down a person down and sweep him away.
4. If you have only minutes to get out, don’t waste time gathering up possessions. Most things can be replaced, but lives cannot. Do not wait for instructions to move to higher ground if authorities think flash flooding is possible.
5. Drinking water contamination can be a big deal during and after a flood, so make sure you have safe water with you, either in your home or if you evacuate. The American Red Cross suggests three gallons of water per person for the average emergency.
6. Don’t try to ride it out! If you are told to evacuate, do it. As you go, beware of streams, ditches, drainage channels, canyons, and other low-lying areas. Flash floods can happen in these places far away from the source of the water.
7. Make a flooding/disaster plan for your household. Build a disaster pack to keep at home, and don’t wait for bad weather to start preparing your kit. Make sure you have everything you need well before you actually need it.
8. As you evacuate, take plenty of cash, no-cook foods, spare clothes, sanitation items, your cell phone charger, rain gear, and lots of bug-out type supplies in case you have to provide for yourself after your exodus.
9. If you have time, move important items in your home to an upper floor, or at least up off the floor.
10. If you must evacuate and have enough time, bring any important and irreplaceable papers, documents, photos, files and data with you as you leave.
We hope you all stay safe and stay alert this year. Please share your flood stories and your emergency plans, in the comments.