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Just in time: It's flood safety awareness week

Posted at 10:30 AM, Mar 16, 2015

Just in time to guide areas already facing flooding woes because of heavy rains and melting snow, it’s National Flood Safety Awareness Week.

Flooding causes more property damage in the United States than any other weather related event, according to the NOAA. Flooding can also be deadly, killing an average of 85 people a year. Fortunately, most of those deaths are preventable if people know the facts.

Spring is prime flooding time
The ground is still at least partially frozen, preventing any moisture from getting absorbed into the soil. Snow is melting thanks to increasingly warmer temperatures. Frozen rivers are beginning to unfreeze, but chunks of ice and debris remain, blocking water from moving downstream.

Related: Cincinnati, Ohio deals with problematic flooding this week

On top of all that, most of the country receives a majority of their rainfall during the spring. Any one of these factors or a combination can cause damaging floods. About 75 percent of Presidential disaster declarations are associated with flooding (NOAA).

How do I know if I’m at risk?
The National Weather Service is constantly monitoring every aspect that can cause floods and flash floods, so when advisories, watches and warnings are issued for either, it’s important to know the difference. Flash floods are sudden, violent floods that can take minutes to hours to develop. When flash flood warnings are issued, you may need to take immediate action. An advisory doesn’t require such quick action. An advisory simply means there may be minor flooding that could be an inconvenience like ponding on roads. A flood watch means conditions are favorable for flooding, and you need to be prepared if events come together as forecasted. And finally, a flood warning is issued when flooding is occurring or about to occur, so it’s time to take action.

How do I prepare?
Floods can disrupt normal life for days at a time. That’s why it’s wise to put an emergency kit together. Pack enough non-perishable food, water, and medicine for three days. You may have to eat food that requires little preparation and no refrigeration. Floodwaters can pollute drinking water and disrupt electric service. That’s why you should also charge any essential electronics like cell phones ahead of time when watches are issued. And if it looks like your home will flood, don’t wait to be told to leave. Leave ahead of time, and make plans for another place to stay.

Steer clear of floodwaters
Most people underestimate the power of water, and that’s why so many injuries and deaths occur from flooding. Most of these happen when people try to cross flooded streets on foot or in their car. It only takes six inches of water to sweep an adult off their feet. It only takes two feet of water to lift cars, trucks and SUVs off the road. That’s assuming the road is still there. Water can erode roadways in a relatively short time, leaving no road at all.

You’re probably not covered
Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding damage. Contact your insurance company well ahead of time if you think you may need flood insurance. Most policies take at least 30 days to go into effect.

Flooding affects the entire country year-round, but most of the United States is more susceptible during the spring and summer months. If everyone goes into the time of year with a little more preparation and know-how, then maybe we can decrease the injuries, loss of life and damages flooding causes every year.