Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. 3/4 of all presidential disaster declarations are associated with flooding. In most years it causes more damage than any other severe weather related event. Although many floods are caused by huge storms like hurricanes, more floods occur every day and can result from small, localized events, such as a typical afternoon thunderstorm.

Flood Fatalities

Unfortunately, most flood fatalities are not due to limitations in the forecast system. All too often, people in vehicles literally drive into harm's way. As little as 2 feet of water can float an average car. While it may appear that water is not deep enough to cause problems, there is almost no way of knowing if the roadbed itself has been eroded or undermined.

What to Do Before a Flood

  • Understand "Watch" and "Warning" terms.
  • Determine if you are in a flood prone area.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio.
  • Know how to shut off utilities.
  • Purchase flood insurance.
  • Keep your car filled with gas.
  • Make pet care plans for potential evacuations.
National Weather Service 'Turn Around Don't Drown' flyer

What to Do During Heavy Rains

  • Know what low lying areas near your home are subject to flooding.
  • Do not try to walk or drive through flooded areas.
  • Stay away from moving water. Moving water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
  • Evacuate if advised or if you feel threatened.
  • If you have time, turn off all utilities at the main switch and move all valuables to a higher floor.
  • If you're caught in the house by suddenly rising waters, move to the second floor and/or the roof.
  • Take warm clothing, a flashlight and radio with you.
  • Monitor radio and TV for current information. Keep a disaster kit handy.

What to Do After a Flood

  • Stay away from flooded areas.
  • When floodwaters recede, watch for weakened surfaces.
  • Keep away from downed power lines, especially near water.
  • Monitor radio and TV for current information. If you evacuate, return home only when authorities advise that it is safe.
  • 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. 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.
  • Shovel out mud while it is still wet.
  • Have your water tested before using.
  • Wear gloves and boots when cleaning.
  • Make any temporary repairs necessary to stop further losses from the elements and to prevent looting.