Preparing For Fall Flash Floods
Flooding occurs in known floodplains when rain falls over several days or there is intense rainfall over a short period of time. Severe thunderstorms during the fall can bring heavy rain as well. Flash floods occur within six hours of a rain event or after a dam or levee failure, and they often can catch you unprepared. You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden fall floods are coming, so if you live in an area prone to flash floods, plan now to protect your family and property.
Learn more about flooding and flash flooding in your area by contacting your local emergency management office, the National Weather Service (NWS) office, or your local planning and zoning department office. If you are at risk, take steps to reduce damage and the risk of injury or loss to your family.
Know the difference between a WATCH and a WARNING.
- A National Weather Service WATCH is a message letting you know that conditions favor the occurrence of a certain type of hazardous weather. For example, a severe thunderstorm watch means that a severe thunderstorm is expected in the next six hours or so within an area approximately 120 to 150 miles wide and 300 to 400 miles long (36,000 to 60,000 square miles).
- A WARNING indicates that a hazardous event is occurring or is imminent in about 30 minutes to an hour. Local NWS forecast offices issue warnings on a county-by-county basis.
- Many more WATCHES are issued than WARNINGS. A WATCH is the first sign a flood may occur, and when one is issued, you should be aware of potential fall flood hazards. Floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels, reaching heights of 10 to 20 feet. They also often carry a deadly cargo of debris and can trigger catastrophic debris slides.
- Be prepared for fall flash floods and head for higher ground, staying away from flood waters. Even a shallow level of fast-moving flood water produces a lot of force, and the most dangerous thing you can do is to try walking, swimming, or driving through flood waters, since as little as two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.
Plan Ahead for a Fall Flash Flood
- Develop a Family Disaster Plan, and learn about your area's flood risk and elevation above flood stage.
- Contact your local Red Cross chapter, emergency management office, local National Weather Service office, or planning and zoning department to find out more about your area's flood risk.
- Knowing the elevation of your property in relation to nearby streams and dams will let you know if forecasted flood levels will affect your home.
Handling Flash Flood Risk:
- Talk to your insurance agent. Homeowners' policies do not cover flooding, so make sure you take steps to get covered.
- Use a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone-alert feature or a portable, battery-powered radio or TV for updated emergency information.
- Everyone in your family should know where to go if they have to leave. Trying to make plans at the last minute can be upsetting and create confusion.
- Discuss flash floods with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing floods ahead of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.
Protect Your Property
- Keep insurance policies, documents, and other valuables in a safe-deposit box. You may need quick, easy access to these documents. Keep them in a safe place less likely to be damaged during a flood.
- Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home. Some communities do not permit building in known floodplains. If there are no restrictions and you are building in a floodplain, take precautions.
- Raise your furnace, water heater, and electric panel to higher floors or the attic if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded. Raising this equipment will prevent damage.
- Install check valves in building sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home. As a last resort, when floods threaten, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.
- Build barriers, such as levees, berms, and flood walls, to stop flood water from entering the building. Permission to construct such barriers may be required by local building codes, so check local building codes and ordinances for safety requirements.
- Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage through any cracks.
Consult with a construction professional for further assistance. Here at SERVPRO of Huron & East Seneca Counties, we can help you with any issues you may experience both before and after a fall flash flood.