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What to do Before a Flood


  • When a flood watch has been issued, you should be aware of potential flood hazards. Everyone in a Watch area should be ready to respond and act quickly.
  • Have an evacuation plan in place BEFORE flooding occurs. Flooded roads may cut off your escape route. Head for higher ground before the water becomes too deep. Remember– just six inches of rapidly flowing water can knock you off your feet.
  • Find out if you are located in a high, medium, or low flood risk area. Know your surroundings. Are there any streams or rivers near by?
  • Check into flood insurance. Find out if your city or town participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Determine alternative routes in case roads you normally travel to reach your home or job will be flooded during a storm.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather All-Hazards, Radio or other battery-powered portable radio and flashlights in working order with batteries.
  • Store drinking water in food-grade containers. Water service may be interrupted.
  • Keep a stock of food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration; electric power may be interrupted.
  • Keep first-aid supplies and prescription medications on hand.
  • Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Keep your automobile fueled; if electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for days.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. If possible, families should use only one vehicle to avoid getting separated and reduce traffic jams. Move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water. Continue listening for updates.
  • Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes streams, drainage channels, canyons and even dips in the road.
  • Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and move to higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants, sweeping them away.
  • Vehicles can be swept away by as little as two feet of water.
  • Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection, Turn around and go another way.
  • If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, STOP! Turn around and go another way. Climb to higher ground. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can knock you off of your feet. Many people are swept away wading through flood waters, resulting in injury or death.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Stay out of any buildings that are surrounded by floodwaters. Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • If the power is out, use flashlights and not candles or lanterns. Flammables may be inside.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can also contain sewage and chemicals.
  • Boil drinking water before using. Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authorities.

If you have to evacuate, so do your animals! Best case scenario is to take your pets with you when you evacuate. Unfortunately, there are times when that is not possible.

Whether there isn't enough room (for larger animals), you don't have enough time or you forget in the rush and panic; what ever the case, do not tie them up or leave them in an enclosed area. If you can't take them with you, at least set them free. Animals have built-in survival instincts and a stronger chance of living through disasters on their own.

When it comes to a flood, cats and dogs are more like bears. They respond as den-dwellers; as soon as they sense an ominous change in the weather, they instinctively want to run and hide in a safe, cozy place. This tidbit may come in handy if you are ever searching for your pets after a flood.

Many people enjoy hiking, fishing and camping along streams and rivers. Listen to weather forecasts and keep away from streams if thunderstorms have happened or have been predicted upstream from where you are. A creek only six inches deep in mountainous areas can swell to a 10-foot deep raging river in less than an hour if a thunderstorm inundates the area with intense rainfall.

When thunderstorms are in the area, stay alert for rapidly changing conditions. You may notice the stream start to rise quickly and become muddy. You may hear a roaring sound upstream that may be a flood wave moving rapidly toward you. Head immediately for higher ground. Don't be swept away by the rising water.

Information provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.

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