The last week of September 2015 brought to parts of Virginia heavy rainfall (record amounts in some places), river flooding, flash flooding on smaller streams, road closures, emergency rescues, and property damage (such as the destruction of an 80-year-old Bob White covered bridge over the Smith River in Patrick County). [Source: Commonwealth Responding to Flooding, Preparing for More Extreme Weather, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 9/30/15.]
As of September 30, more heavy rain was being forecast for much of Virginia, and Hurricane Joaquin had the potential to affect the Commonwealth by the first weekend in October. [Source: National Hurricane Center, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.]
There’s no doubt that the future always holds more flooding and flash flooding, at some time. In fact, flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States.
So here are the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s suggestions for what to do before, during, and after a flood, from the Ready Virginia Web site at http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/stayinformed/floods. Below the list are links to other sources of information on preparing for, or responding to, flooding.
Ready Virginia – Floods
Flooding is the nation’s most common natural disaster, but not all floods are alike. Some can develop slowly during an extended period of rain, or in a warming trend following a heavy snow. Others, such as flash floods, can occur quickly, even without any visible signs of rain. Be prepared for flooding no matter where you live, but particularly if you are in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even a very small stream or dry creek bed can overflow and create flooding.
Prepare for Flooding
- Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
- Consider installing “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
- Unplug electrical appliances, moving them to higher levels, if possible. However, do not touch an electric appliance if you are wet or standing in water.
- If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.
- Property insurance does not typically cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider if you need additional coverage.
- If time allows, bring in outside furniture and move your valuables to higher places in your home.
- Be prepared to evacuate. Do not return to your home until local authorities say it is safe. Even after flood waters recede, roads could be weakened and could collapse. Buildings might be unstable, and drinking water might be contaminated. Use common sense and exercise caution.
- Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a flood hazard.
- Flood Watch or Flash Flood Watch: there is an increased possibility of flooding or a flash flood in your area.
- Flood Warning: flooding is occurring or will likely occur very soon. If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Flash Flood Warning: flash flooding is occurring. Seek higher ground immediately; do not wait for instructions.
- Use common sense and available information. If water is rising quickly or you see a moving wall of mud or debris, immediately move to higher ground.
- Do not walk through moving water, if possible. Look for areas where the water is not moving. What might seem like a small amount of moving water can easily knock you down.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If your vehicle becomes surrounded by rising water, get out quickly and move to higher ground, if possible.
- Flood water might cut off access to roads. Be prepared to stay where you are until floodwaters recede.
Know the Road Conditions Before You Leave
- Know the road conditions before you hit the highways. Visithttp://www.511virginia.org or dial 511 from any phone for real-time traffic information and road condition reports.
- Or visit http://www.virginiadot.org for the latest road reports or listing of closed roads during a major flooding event.
- Listen to weather-alert radios to stay informed of flood watches and warnings.
- Also monitor commercial radio, television and the Internet.
- Keep in mind that after a flood, it could be hours, or even days, before emergency personnel are able to reach you.
You don’t have to live in a high risk area to be at risk for floods. About 25 percent of flood claims occur outside of a special flood hazard area, yet only 4.3 percent of Virginia households in low- to moderate-risk areas are covered with flood insurance protection.
Other Sources of Information on Flooding
American Red Cross, “Flood Safety,” online at http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/flood; or contact your local Red Cross chapter.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “Floods,” online at http://www.ready.gov/floods.
National Flood Insurance Program, online at https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/, or phone toll-free at (888) 379-9531.
National Weather Service, “Flooding Resources,” online at http://www.floodsafety.noaa.gov/.