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Flash Floods: How to Survive If One Strikes

September 8, 2023

When excessive rainfall strikes, flash flooding often follows suit. Although it can happen anywhere, flash floods are especially common in low lying areas. They can be deadly and costly. Here are some flash flooding facts and tips to survive.

What Causes Flash Floods

Most flash flooding is fueled by slow moving thunderstorms, repeat thunderstorms in the same area, or heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms. A dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam, can also trigger them.

Cities Are High Risk

Flash floods pose a significant threat to urban areas. City infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, and parking lots can’t absorb water. The water rapidly accumulates and leads to increased runoff. The infrastructure disrupts the natural flow of water into rivers, streams, and wetlands. Cities can’t handle the excess water.

High Water Volume

Flash floods carry a high amount of water. In extreme cases, water levels can reach up to 30 feet or more. The powerful surge can cause severe damage to anything in its path, including buildings, infrastructure, and natural landscapes.

Floodwaters Are Dangerous

Floodwaters can sweep you away. Vehicles can become difficult to drive in just six inches of water and be swept away in as little as 18 inches. It takes only six inches to sweep a person off their feet. People often underestimate the force and depth of floodwaters. Never risk driving or walking through them. Always turn around, don’t drown.

Flash Flooding Is Deadly

Flash flooding is the number one storm-related killer in the United States. The 30-year average for flood deaths is around 127 people per year. National Weather Service data indicates nearly half of all flash flood deaths are vehicle related.

Hefty Price Tag

Flash floods can cause significant structural damage. Just 12 inches of floodwater on a 2,000-square-foot building can cost $50,000 or more. Flash floods cause billions of dollars in property damage annually across the U.S.

Flash Flood Survival Tips

Here are some basic safety rules to follow in the event of flooding.

Evacuate if you are told to leave. Avoid bridges over fast moving water. Get to higher ground.

If you get trapped on a roof, stay put until help arrives. Get on top of your vehicle if it stalls in water. Never drive through water. Don’t wade in floodwater as there may be hidden debris or downed power lines. Don’t outrun the water. Many people perish when they attempt this instead of moving to higher ground.

Flash Flood Preparations

Here are some tips to follow to make sure you are prepared to handle a flash flood.

Monitor the Weather Forecast. If a flash flood warning is issued for your area, quickly move to higher ground.

Prepare a Disaster Kit. This is especially important if you live in a flood prone area. Include extra water and food, blankets, extra clothes, a first aid kit, prescription medications, a flashlight, a portable radio, and extra batteries.

Know the Hazards in Your Area. Contact your local National Weather Service, emergency management office, or the American Red Cross for information.

Make a Plan. Meet with your family and create a plan in the event of an emergency.

Let Us Handle the Mess

When it comes to water, flood, or fire damage, Flood Department is here to help. We provide water damage repair and clean-up services for homeowners and businesses. We cover Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. We are dedicated to helping reverse the unfortunate results. Contact us at 301-829-2600 or visit us online.

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