With the onset of Hurricane Sandy, the National Weather Service (NWS) has forecast severe weather for the Washington DC Metropolitan area with high winds and heavy rainfall. This is a slow moving storm that will last for several days beginning Saturday evening and moving out of the area sometime on Wednesday producing flooding and flash floods throughout the state. More deaths occur from flooding than any other severe weather-related hazard as the result of people underestimating the power of water, especially rushing water. Of all flood fatalities, more than 50% are vehicle-related as a result of people trapped in vehicles swept downstream. This occurs when victims attempt to drive through the flooded area.
To protect you and your family should flooding occur, follow these flood safety tips:
- Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio to receive warnings from the National Weather Service, or monitor your favorite news source.
- You can also sign up for weather alerts and emergency messages from the County through Prince William Community Alert Network at www.pwcgov.org/PWCAN.
- Keep up to date with local conditions – follow TV and radio reports from your area, or visit www.weather.gov (http://mobile.weather.gov on your phone) for the latest forecast.
- Be aware of flooding or flash flooding that may occur in your area.
- Leave areas subject to flooding and seek higher ground.
- Avoid underpasses, underground parking garages and basements during or after heavy rains.
- Whether driving or walking, if you encounter a flooded road -- Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
- DO NOT attempt to cross flowing streams.
- NEVER drive through flooded roadways – flood water may have damaged or washed away the road and six inches of water can stall a vehicle.
- If your vehicle stalls, get out and move to higher ground.
- If you come to water that’s above your ankles, stop and turn around. You can be swept off your feet by as little as six inches of rushing water.
- Develop a family evacuation plan. Make sure everyone knows what to do in case of flooding.
- Keep all family cars fueled. Stock bottled water, non-perishable food, and a first aid kit.
Residents often inquire about the use of sandbags to protect their home from flooding. Prince William County does not distribute sandbags due to:
- Sandbags are heavy to handle and difficult to stack properly.
- Sandbags exposed to flood water become contaminated and are difficult to dispose of properly.
In lieu of sandbags:
Use cement to fill cracks in the foundation, seal openings around pipes with cement or caulk; and seal the joint between siding and foundation with caulk.
Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean and in working order. Ensure that gutters and downspouts discharge properly into the storm sewer or some distance away from your property.
Maintain the grade around your house so that rainwater drains away from the foundation.
Consider installing a backup, battery-powered or water-powered sump pump if you rely on a sump pump to keep your house dry, and be sure you understand the limits of the backup pump.
Consider investing in a generator or heavy-duty power inverter to cope with extended power outages.
We may also encounter strong winds during the storm so be sure to check your yard and outside areas around your home for items such as trash cans and patio furniture that might be blown around by heavy winds. In addition, expect downed trees and power lines that will create power outages that may last for several hours or days.
Planning ahead is the key to increasing your chances of survival during an emergency. To prepare for possible outages follow these simple steps:
- Get a Kit - Stock or re-stock your emergency supply kits (food, drinking water, including extra batteries, etc.). Have enough supplies for a minimum of 3 days. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for supplies
- Test all emergency equipment prior to the storm, i.e. radios, flashlights, generators, etc.
- Food Safety - Have a cooler on hand to keep food cold, and group food together in the freezer so it stays cold longer.
- Generators - Follow safe operating procedures for generators. Never operate one inside your home or in an enclosed space, such as a garage.
- Lighting – Use flashlights instead of candles.’
- Stay away from fallen wires, flooded areas and debris. Treat all fallen wires and anything touching them as though they are energized.