What to do before, during, after a flash flood

ST. GEORGE — It only takes 1 to 2 feet of moving water to wash an SUV off of the road.

According to the National Weather Service, more than half of all flood-related deaths are people driving through flooded roads. Floodwaters are usually deeper than they appear, and the roadbed may not be intact under the water.

Flash flood waves, moving at incredible speeds, can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges and scour out new channels. Killing walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet. You will not always have warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming.

When a flash flood warning is issued for your area or the moment you first realize that a flash flood is imminent, act quickly to save yourself. You may have only seconds.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, known as FLASH, and the National Weather Service remind: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”  and offer the following flood safety tips to protect your home and family.

Before the Flood

  1. Clear yard of any debris, plant material or items that can block water flow and storm drains.
  2. When time permits, secure or elevate outdoor appliances, AC units or storage tanks.
  3. Place important documents in a watertight container. Take photographs or videos to create an inventory of your personal possessions and keep the camera card handy in case of evacuation.
  4. Identify and move electronics and other expensive items on lower levels of the home and elevate if possible.
  5. When using sandbags, fill one-half full, fold the top of sandbag down and rest the bag on its folded top.
  6. Limit sandbag placement to three layers, unless stacked up against a building or sandbags are placed in a pyramid. Tamp each sandbag into place, completing each layer prior to starting the next layer.
  7. Clear a path between buildings for debris flow, and lay a plastic sheet in between the building and the sand bags to control the flow and prevent water from seeping in.

During the Flood

  1. Avoid flooded areas. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. It takes only six inches of fast flowing water to sweep you off your feet.
  2. Do not hike rivers and especially slot canyons while flash flood warnings are in place, do not hike alone and tell someone where you are going.
  3. Don’t allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.
  4. Never drive through flood waters or on flooded roads.  Water only two feet deep can float most vehicles.
  5. Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.
  6. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to see flooded roads.
  7. Stay alert as conditions can be ripe for mudslides especially when driving. Watch the road for collapsed pavement, mud, and other indications of a possible debris flow.
  8. Be aware of any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether the water changes from clear to muddy. These changes may mean there is debris flow activity upstream so be prepared to move quickly. Listen for sounds that indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking.

After the Flood

  1. Take photographs of damage throughout the building and around the property. Assess stability of plaster and drywall. Bulging or swelling ceilings indicate damage. Press upward on drywall ceilings. If nail heads appear, drywall will need to be renailed but can be saved.
  2. Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones or mortar.
  3. Clean and disinfect heating, air conditioning and ventilation ducts before use to avoid spread of airborne germs and mold spores. Use fans and sunlight to dry out interior spaces. Remove all wet carpets, curtains and fabrics. Allow to air dry completely.

To learn more about how much flooding can cost you check out this cost of flooding tool provided by FloodSmart. For information on floodproofing your home, visit  FLASH or  FEMA.

 About FLASH

Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is a consumer advocate for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and manmade disasters. Learn more about FLASH and gain access to its free consumer resources by visiting www.flash.org or calling 877-221-SAFE (7233). Also, get timely safety tips to ensure that you and your family are protected from natural and manmade disasters by subscribing to the FLASH blog – Protect Your Home in a FLASH.

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