Flash Flooding: Preparation and Survival

As pleasant as a rainfall can be, it can quickly turn into a dangerous flooding situation.

Four Ways to Be Prepared

  1. Learn if your home or place of business is in a flood-prone area.
  2. Designate a meeting place ahead of time in case of evacuation and have essential survival items handy.
  3. Have an emergency plan in place if evacuation from your home is not possible or necessary. Have plenty of food, water and fuel at home to last you a week.
  4. Consider health and safety issues if you come in contact with flood waters.

For more tips, read our Spring Floods — 5 Tasks to Do Now Before They Occur article.

What Else Should You Know?

“When heavy rains persist and water levels rise, city streets can easily become rivers,” explains Pete Bell, CEO of Cotton Companies, one of the country’s leading disaster relief companies. “These storms can also affect city areas surrounded by or built around bayous, rivers, and other natural or man-made run-offs. Quickly developing storms can [also] create flash flooding in areas of high construction with limited run-off.”

Bell pointed out some other conditions that can lead to flooding:

  • Extremely dry weather conditions
  • A combination of drought and high temperatures that can cause asphalt on streets and sidewalks to be less absorbent and lead to additional run-off and flooding
  • Aging or leaking sewer systems that can’t handle large amounts of quickly falling rain

Bell’s Three Tips for City Dwellers

  1. Stay indoors if possible. Move valuables and emergency supplies to higher ground and pack a spare set of clothing and other essential survival items in a waterproof bag to keep them dry in case of you have to evacuate.
  2. Stay updated on local weather conditions, either via weather radio, local radio or television. Many transit authorities update emergency information on their Web sites as well. Know the difference between a “flood watch” and “flood warning.”
  3. Pay attention to evacuation routes of buildings and subways you may enter during storms, as well as from your home. If you are at work when the flooding worsens you should have a designated area to wait it out, i.e. a local hotel. Always follow evacuation instructions from authorities immediately.

Final Tip

If you’re on the road and caught in a storm with flash flood potential, stay away from low-lying areas. Do not try to cross flooded roadways since it only takes 24 inches of water to sweep a car off the road and standing water can hide the fact that the road below has been washed away.