While rain can happen anywhere, it takes more than water to create a flood. There are a number of factors such as soil type, climate, storm severity and drainage system efficiency, which can all increase or decrease the occurrences of flooding in a particular region.
Unfortunately, since warmer air can hold more water, storms have become more impactful as the temperature of the earth changes. Consequently, the risk of severe flooding is escalating each year, making preparation for the flood season increasingly vital.
Technically, there is no flood season in the U.S. This is because a flood can happen any time of the year. It doesn't have to be a result of a heavy storm — a flood can occur during a midwinter thaw. Percentage-wise, however, most floods in the U.S. happen between spring and fall.
In regions where there has been substantial snowfall over the winter, such as in the mountains, the snow will melt before the ground thaws. This means that the water cannot be absorbed into the ground and will run into streams, quickly overflowing them. Even a small spring storm can cause significant flooding if it occurs early in the season.
As thunderstorm season arrives, the warmer air brings more severe storms to many areas of the U.S. The southwestern region of the country is particularly vulnerable during this time of year. When the soil is dry and compacted, rainfall cannot be absorbed, so flash flooding may occur within minutes. The surge of a flash flood is powerful enough to uproot trees and move boulders while reaching a potential height of 30 feet or more.
Tropical storms arrive in coastal as well as nearby inland areas in late summer. States that are located along the southern and eastern borders of the country are at the greatest risk during this time of year. The floods that happen in areas such as Texas and Louisiana or Florida and Georgia are often declared national disasters.
While most often associated with drownings and structural damage, there are many other types of hazards that are created by a flood. Environmentally, a flood can cause erosion, landslides and loss of flora and fauna as well as redepositing sediment and creating new river channels. Economically, a flood can destroy crops and cause loss of livestock and jobs. A flood can disrupt daily life for extended periods of time by shutting down power, communication and transportation services. Finally, a flood can create health risks such as food shortages and contaminated drinking water while enabling the spread of disease.
Being prepared gives you the best chance of survival in any emergency situation. Here is a list of ways that you can be prepared in the event of a flood.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a government agency dedicated to keeping the public informed of all events from daily weather forecasts to severe storm warnings. Having an NOAA weather radio on hand keeps you aware of changing weather conditions so you know when you need to act. Remember, a flood watch means a flood is possible, while a flood warning means that a flood is occurring or will shortly occur.
Long before there are any storms in the forecast, you need to sit down with your family and come up with a survival plan in the event of a flood. The plan should outline a specific course of action for each individual. Who is responsible for the pets? Who is responsible for the outdoor furniture? Who is responsible for inventorying the emergency supply kit? Whose job is it to fill up the gas tank? If there’s an emergency evacuation, what are the alternative routes of travel that are not prone to flooding? The best plans incorporate other members of the community so you have a buddy system between families.
Your emergency supply kit should contain all the essential items you need for survival.
Backup power sources: Besides fully charging all of your communication devices, consider amassing a collection of portable backup power sources that can keep you up and running for at least three days. Some of your options include a solar charger, a waterproof portable charger, or even a portable jump starter that can be used to quick-charge several of your devices at once.
Essential gadgets: Your cell phone will likely already be on hand, but a crank light, a multi-tool and an emergency lantern might be stashed in the garage or shed. Make sure you find these essential items before you need them.
Drinking water: To prepare for a flood, you need a minimum of three gallons of fresh water per family member. Start by filling empty soda bottles, milk jugs and any clean container that’s available. The CDC recommends sanitizing sinks and tubs so you can fill them with fresh water as well. The CDC also has guidelines on how to make water safe in an emergency. One way is to filter the water. If you have a water filter straw that can remove bacteria and viruses, that’s an option. You can also add water purification tablets to the filtered water as an extra precaution.
Food: Your emergency kit must include a three-day supply of nonperishable food for each family member. Nonperishable food includes such items as nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, canned beans, canned vegetables and protein bars.
First aid kit: Whether it's a splinter, a cut, a minor burn, a headache or any other unfortunate mishap, you need to have a fully stocked first aid kit at the ready to take care of the issue.
Important documents: Even when there isn't a flood watch or warning, it's a good idea to store your important documents in a document bag that’s both fireproof and waterproof. Besides documents that are required for identification purposes, insurance policies and the deed to your home, the CDC recommends having your immunization records available in emergency situations as well.
Medications: If anyone in your family is on maintenance medication, place the medicine in a waterproof container so it won’t get lost or wet. The Red Cross recommends packing at least a seven-day supply of essential medications. You also want to bring items such as hearing aids and batteries, contact lenses, glasses and syringes.
Any possessions that you may keep outside should be brought indoors or tied securely down. This includes lawn furniture, lawn ornaments, flags, trash cans, bikes and more. However, certain hazardous items such as propane or gasoline storage cans should never be brought inside the house.
FEMA has estimated that just one inch of interior water can cause $26,807 worth of damage in an average one-story home. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you need flood insurance. If you don’t already have flood insurance, talk to your insurance agent, the same individual who helped you with your home or auto insurance policy.
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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.