Flooding

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. Every U.S. state and territory is at risk. Some floods develop slowly as a result of prolonged rain or a warming trend following heavy snowfall. Flash floods can occur quickly and without warning during severe weather, and in some geographic areas, without visible signs of rain. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. Everyone should be prepared for flooding regardless of where they live; especially, those who live near water, coastal inlets, downstream from a dam, or in low-lying areas.

  • Be aware of potential flood and flash flood hazards near your home.
  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio, or local radio and TV broadcasts for updates.
  • Determine the need to evacuate based on immediate personal danger or if a mandatory evacuation is issued. Never rely solely on official warnings. If you feel a flash flood is likely or your safety is at risk, move to higher ground immediately.
  • Do not take time to remove contents from your home if flood water is imminent.
  • Do not walk or drive into moving water. Back up and try an alternative route. Only six inches of moving water is needed to knock you down or cause most passenger vehicles to lose control or stall. One foot of water will float most cars. Two feet of rushing water will sweep most vehicles away, including pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.
  • Never remain in a flooded car. If surrounded by floodwater, leave the vehicle and make your way on foot to higher ground.
  • If you are in your vehicle and it becomes submerged in water, DO NOT PANIC! Remain calm and wait for the vehicle to fill with water. This is necessary to open the doors. Once the car has filled with water, the equalized pressure will allow you to open the doors. Hold your breath and swim to the surface.
  • If you are swept into fast moving floodwater outside your vehicle, point your feet downstream. Always attempt to go over the top of obstacles, never go underneath.
  • If you become stranded on something above the floodwater, like a building or tree, remain where you are and wait for rescue. Never enter the floodwater as you may become entangled in dangerous currents and submerged debris.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater whenever possible as it may be contaminated with raw sewage, gasoline or oil. It may also be charged with electricity from fallen power lines.
  • Assemble a family preparedness kit and create your emergency plan that designates a place for your family to meet both in and outside your immediate neighborhood if you become separated.

Frequently Asked Question: What are the terms associated with floods and flash floods?

Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio, or local radio and TV broadcasts for updates.

Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon. Evacuate immediately if told to do so or if you feel your personal safety is in jeopardy.

Flash Flood Watch: Flash floods are possible. Be prepared to move quickly to higher ground. Listen to radio or TV for information.

Flash Flood Warning: A flash flood is occurring. Move to higher ground immediately on foot.

For more information about Flooding, see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) brochure entitled, Floods: The Awesome Power (pdf).

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