Flooding is a coast-to-coast year-round threat. In the U.S., flooding cost an average of $4 billion a year. More deaths occur from flooding than any other severe weather-related hazard. 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.
The second highest percentage of flood-related deaths is the result of individuals walking into flood waters. Although these areas are often marked to warn individuals about flooding, victims ignore the signage and attempt to walk through the area. In the majority of these cases, which are preventable, individuals all too often underestimate the force and power of water and drive or walk into harm's way.
Flooding can happen after days of prolonged and intense rainfall or a flash flood can occur within hours of a rain event due to rapidly rising water along a stream or in a low-lying area. Flash floods can move boulders and other large objects, uprooting trees and destroying buildings and bridges. These floods occur suddenly and often without warning; most often catching people off-guard and unprepared. When you hear the word “flash” think “urgent” and act accordingly.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) (www.nws.noaa.gov) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (www.ready.gov) has designated March 16th - 22nd as National Flood Safety Awareness Week in an effort to bring about public awareness of ways floods can occur, the hazards associated with floods, and what you can do to save life and property. To protect you and your family should a flood occur follow these safety tips:
- Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio to receive warnings from the National Weather Service, or monitor your favorite news source. A Flood/Flash Flood Watch means flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area. A Flood/Flash Flood Warning means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.
- Leave areas subject to flooding and seek higher ground.
- Avoid underpasses, underground parking garages, and basements during or after heavy rains.
- Turn Around, Don't Drown (TADD) (www.nws.noaa.gov/floodsafety/tadd.shtml)
- 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.
“Don’t take chances with your life,” states Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue (www.pwcgov.org/fire). Whether you’re driving or walking, if you encounter a flooded roadway – “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”
- 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.
For information on how to obtain flood insurance, and what to do before, during and after a flood, visit www.floodsmart.gov.