FLOOD SAFETY AWARENESS
Recent severe weather events over the past year causing extensive river flooding and areal flooding across the state remind Floridians that they should be prepared for the possibility of floods. The National Weather Service and state, county and city emergency management officials encourage residents to update their preparedness plans.
According to the National Weather Service, flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event, an average of $4.6 billion a year in the past 20 years (1984-2003). Flooding can occur in any of the 50 states or U.S. territories at anytime of the year.
Several factors contribute to flooding. The two key elements are rainfall intensity and duration. Intensity is the rate of rainfall, and duration is how long the rain lasts. Topography, soil conditions, and ground cover or ground debris also play an important role. Flood effects can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states.
- An areal, or urban, flood occurs when prolonged rainfall over several days, intense rainfall over a short period of time, or a river or stream overflows and floods the surrounding area. Severe thunderstorms can bring heavy rain in the spring and summer and tropical cyclones can bring intense rainfall to coastal and inland states in the summer and fall.
- A flash flood occurs within six hours of a rain event, or following a sudden release of water held by a dam or levee. Flash floods can catch people unprepared and the use of the word “flash” can be synonymous with “urgent.” You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming. So, if you live in areas prone to flash floods, plan now to protect your family and property.
- River flooding can also cause extensive damage. These types of floods, however, can be forecast. Many rivers and streams are monitored by river gages. The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) will provide important river and flood forecasts and water information across America to protect life and property. AHPS graphical products are available at http://www.weather.gov/ahps/
The main reason why so many lives are lost due to flooding is that many people underestimate the force and power of water. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling and 12-24 inches water will float many vehicles. More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept away. That is why the National Weather Service and Emergency Management partners strongly encourage people to adopt the phrase “Turn Around,
Significant flooding in Florida occurs on a yearly basis. Most flood events come from slow moving thunderstorms or low pressure systems, but flooding does not always occur with just thunderstorms. When it comes to tropical cyclones, wind speeds do not tell the whole story. Intense rainfall often causes more damage and, since the 1970s, inland flooding has been responsible for more than half of the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States.
The National Weather Service urges people to follow these safety rules:
- NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio is one of the best ways to receive warnings from the National Weather Service. Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio or your favorite news source for vital weather related information.
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, ditches, etc.
- Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
- Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, canals and ditches, particularly during threatening conditions.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
- Never play in flooded areas where hidden sharp objects, electrocution and pollution are serious hazards.
- In highly flood-prone areas, keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, plastic garbage bags, lumber and shovels on hand.
- Be aware of streams, canals and areas that are known to flood so you or your evacuation routes are not cut off.
- Heed water contamination advisories. Do not use food that has come in contact with floodwaters.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your home and family before a flood is to have a family or business plan and purchase a federal flood insurance policy. Flood damages are not covered under homeowners’ insurance policies.
Don’t Drown. This simple phrase can save many lives. More information on this program on can be found at http://www.weather.gov/os/water/tadd/