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Weather education: flood safety

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AP Photo: Flood waters

Flooding is one of nature’s most deadly forces. Flood waters have a force powerful enough to cause destruction of roads, bridges, and homes. Floods can occur in a variety of ways and at any time of the year. The most common time for floods, however, is during the spring when snow-melt occurs and there is frequent rain.

Small creek and stream flooding, which usually occurs as flash flooding after a period of heavy rainfall, often catches drivers off guard. You have probably heard the statement, “Turn around, don’t drown,” however each year numerous people drive onto flooded roadways. It only takes two feet of water to sweep a car away. Much of the time, it’s hard to estimate how deep the water is. The best advice is to turn around and find an alternative route. Flash floods can bring walls of water as high as 10-20 feet.

Larger flooding occurs near rivers and oceans. During the spring, large snowmelt and heavy rain is often responsible for river water level rise. Large coastal storms are often the focus of storm surge, which is a rise in ocean water that floods coastal communities. A good tip if you live in a home that is flood prone is to have a flood plan and to pay attention to local forecasts and water levels year round. Have a family contact list and know where you can go if you have to evacuate. Also, if you live in a home, install check valves in sewer traps and seal the walls of your basement with waterproofing compounds.

Before evacuating due to a flood, if you have furniture outdoors, try to move it indoors if you have time. Also, it pays to move valuable items in your home or business to a higher floor, if available. Once the flood has subsided, please listen to local officials as to when you should return to your home or business and be sure to follow all safety procedures given.

Below are FEMA’s flood terms:

Flood Watch:
Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Flash Flood Watch:
Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Flood Warning:
Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

Flash Flood Warning:
A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

Please keep these tips in mind for next time you encounter flooding conditions.

Sources and for more info: River stages and forecasts; FEMA flood information; Flood Smart flood facts; FEMA flood terms
 

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