General Hurricane Information
More people die from inland flooding than from storm surge. The high death toll may be from the misunderstanding of the fact that intense rainfall is not directly related to the wind speed of tropical cyclones. In fact, some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker storms that drift slowly or stall over an area. Inland flooding can be a major threat to communities living hundreds of miles from the coast line.
Widespread torrential rains often in excess of six inches can produce deadly and destructive floods. Normal drainage systems along the coast may be full from the storm surge, causing flooding in areas not normally prone to floods. Flooding may also be a major threat to areas well inland. In 1979, Tropical Storm Claudette brought 45 inches of rain to an area near Alvin, Texas, contributing to more than $600 million in damage.
Flooding is the number one weather-related killer in the United States and cause more damage nationwide than any other natural disaster. Flash flooding occurs within six hours of a rain event. Flooding is a longer term event and may last a week or more. Inland flooding due to hurricanes can be extensive as rainfall from a hurricane sometimes can be measured in tens of inches.
Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are auto related. Just two feet of water will carry away most automobiles. Never drive through flooded roadways. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicles and its occupants and sweep them away. Be especially careful when driving at night.
Do you have flood insurance? Many people don't realize that their homeowner's policies do not cover losses due to flooding. If you are in a flood zone, you need flood insurance.
If you are in a flood zone and a flood warning has been issued, evacuate immediately. If you have time, turn off all utilities at the main switch, open basement windows to equalize water pressure on the foundations and wills and move all valuables to a higher floor if possible, but only if you have time. If you're caught in the house by suddenly rising waters, move to the second floor and/or the roof. Take warm clothing and a flashlight and radio with you. Do not try to swim to safety. Wait for help. Rescue teams will be looking for you.After a flood, call your insurance agent. Have your policy and list of possessions handy to simplify the adjuster's work. When it is safe to return home, be sure your house is not in danger of collapsing before entering. Watch for live electrical wires and don't turn on any electrically operated light or appliance until an electrician has checked your system. Don't strike a match or use a flame as escaping gas could cause an explosion. Open windows and doors to let air circulate. Take photos to record the damage. Throw out perishable foods, hose down appliances and furniture, even if they have been destroyed. You need to keep these for the adjuster's inspection. Pump basement gradually (one third each day to prevent further structural damage). Shovel out mud while it is still wet. Have your water tested before using (see Sewage Contamination). Make any temporary repairs necessary to stop further losses from the elements and prevent looting.