With springtime here, it’s time to celebrate the warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, and Easter holidays. However, good things also bring about their fair share of downsides. In this case--springtime means a higher risk of flooding. “April showers bring May flowers,” but it also brings risks of damage to your home, limited access to supplies, power outages, road closures, and other hazards.
The recent bomb cyclone and other devastating weather events in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, northern California, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky serve as a reminder of the realities of flooding. There’s no better time than now to review flood preparation protocol. And remember--flash floods from heavy rain aren’t the only cause of flooding. The most common cause is when rivers or streams overflow their banks. Additional causes may be a ruptured dam or levee, rapid ice and snow melting in the mountains, or coastal flooding caused by a large storm or tsunami.
In the case of the Midwest, recent rains combined with rapidly warming temperatures led to significant snowmelt and contributed to flooding in Nebraska, Iowa, and states downstream.
No matter what the cause may be, there are some basic steps you can take to ensure you and your family survive a flooding scenario. Read on to discover three flood preparation tips…
#1: Take Caution and Have an Evacuation Plan
In many ways, you'll need to plan for two situations: staying at home and riding out a disaster or evacuating to a safer location. Although in some circumstances homes may not experience flooding, it’s important to take evacuation warnings very seriously. In the end, you’d rather be safe than sorry.
Take the time to understand which factors increase flood likelihoods in your area, especially if you live in a flood zone. This information can often be found on your local municipality’s website.
Pay attention to news via your local TV and radio station for information about the situation. There are also a few free flood warning apps you can download to have a second layer of protection and notification. These sources will let you know which areas need to evacuate, as well as additional info such as where evacuation centers will be located, which streets will be closed, etc.
As an example, Nashville and other parts of Tennessee experienced major flash flooding in February of this year. In fact, by February 23, more than 12 inches of rain had fallen in the month, the highest total since 1880.
Getting out before conditions on the road gets worse is key when it comes to evacuations. Many roads throughout Tennessee were closed as they were completely underwater. The Nashville Fire Department had to respond to at least 60 water rescue calls in one day for residents who stayed home and ended up stranded.
Reports out of western Iowa are telling us that roads that have been washed away by floodwaters may not be rebuilt or passable for months.
#2: Stock Up on Essentials
Even if you don’t find it necessary to evacuate during a flood, you aren’t entirely in the clear. For example, parts of Northern California recently experienced the worst flooding in over two decades. Due to significant rain, the Russian River crested at 45 feet--13 feet over flood stage.
The only way residents of the resort town of Guerneville could get in and out of their town (if they didn’t evacuate in advance) was via canoe or kayak. As resident Kenny Bishop shared with the Press Democrat, “We’re an island.” Fortunately, he lived in a second-floor apartment that was still higher than the water, and shared that he had “enough food and wine to get him through the week.”
Additionally, nearby Sonoma county experienced the closure of over 100 roads, restricting access from local stores, hospitals, and other services.
In the most recent case in Nebraska, 20% of state road systems had to be closed, and railways were forced to halt trains while they assessed damage to hundreds of miles of rail lines. These systems are used by major agricultural producers--the state's largest economic sector. Needless to say, there has been a complete disruption to transportation systems and food supply chains.
For the long term, once the flood waters recede, the damage is far from over. The entire country can expect food prices to rise. Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Mike Naig, pointed out that it was difficult for him to imagine that 2019 will approach “any sort of a normal planting or growing season” for the tens of thousands of acres of farmland are under water. That will impact all Americans soon.
To prepare for a situation in which you find yourself cut off from local services, grocery stores and supplies, you’ll want to make sure you’ve preemptively stocked up on the essentials, such as…
- Nonperishable food to last you at least seven days (we encourage none of that FEMA 72 hours of food recommendation). In all seriousness, a solid food storage supply of at least 3 months is more realistic for larger disasters. Be sure to keep it stored in a location that will not receive water damage.
- Flashlights--if there are any gas leaks as a result of damage, you’ll want to stay away from candles and other solutions that are flammable.
- Backup solar or hand-crank chargers.
- Solar-powered radio.
- Medications and a first aid kit.
- Bottled water--at least one gallon per person, per day for three to seven days. A gravity-powered water filtration system is even better.
- Cash, since ATMs in your area may not be working or banks may be closed.
- Hygiene items and toilet paper.
With supplies such as food and medication, make sure they are stored "high & dry" in a place where they won’t be at risk for contamination with flood waters.
Also, don’t wait until the last minute to find these items. In the case of a flood in Ingham, Australia, in March 2018, ABC reported that in anticipation of the flood, “hundreds spent the afternoon stocking up on supplies should they be cut off by the rising waters. Supermarket shelves have been stripped of fresh food, with several roads already closed around the town leaving rural communities stranded.”
You won’t want to face the mad dash to the store, and you’ll rest easy knowing you already have everything you need.
#3: Have Backup Power and Water Systems in Place
If your house floods, you may lose access and functionality for essential services such as power, water, sewage, and gas.
Kehoe is referring to the risk of contaminated flood water entering drinking water treatment plants and/or water pipes. If you get your water from water plants where flood water may have penetrated, you should use your backup supply of bottled water. If and when you run out of your supply, you can also boil tap water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth. For a more unlimited water supply, have your own gravity-powered water filtration system on hand, like an Alexapure Pro. For example, Guerneville resident Leah Kehoe decided to wait out the flood at home, thinking her elevated apartment was well above the level the floodwater was expected to rise to. She told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I have food and water and my propane tank is tied down pretty good, I think. But I’m worried about the tap water if that’s OK.”
When it comes to power outages, make sure you take steps such as…
- Unplugging appliances and electronics so they remain safe from electrical surges.
- Keeping refrigerators and freezers closed to avoid food spoilage (this only works for a day or two).
- Buying a solar recharging kit, biomass stove, and solar-powered radio.
At the end of the day, we can’t predict what may happen to us, but we can take preemptive steps to ensure we remain safe when something does happen.
In the case of flooding, always take extra precautions, and make sure you evacuate when needed. If you are 100% confident that you are out of a flooding zone and can stay in place, don’t risk being cutoff--stock up on the essentials now.
Happy spring and stay safe out there! And alert due to the times we are in.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply