Floods, Flash Floods Can Happen Anytime, Anywhere


Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters, except fire. In Georgia, most communities experience some kind of flooding after spring rains or heavy thunderstorms. Floods can be slow or fast rising but generally develop over a period of days. Dam failures are potentially the worst flood events. When a dam fails, a gigantic quantity of water is suddenly let loose downstream, destroying anything in its path.

Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. They occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes. "Communities particularly at risk are those located in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream from a dam," says Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Director Clayton Scott.

Here is some information to help you develop a plan and be ready to act before the possibility of a flood or flash flood threatens you or your family:

Know What to Expect
• Know your area's flood risk--if unsure, call the CEMA office, planning and zoning department or Savannah Chapter of American Red Cross.
• If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
• Closely monitor a local radio station, TV station or NOAA Weather Radio for flood information.

Reduce Potential Flood Damage By:
• Raising your furnace, water heater, and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded.
• Consult with a professional for further information if this and other damage reduction measures can be taken.

Floods Can Take Several Hours to Days to Develop
• A flood WATCH means a flood is possible in your area.
• A flood WARNING means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

Flash Floods Can Take Only a Few Minutes to a Few Hours to Develop
• A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in your area.
• A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon.

Prepare a Family Disaster Plan
• Check to see if you have insurance that covers flooding. If not, find out how to get flood insurance.
• Keep insurance policies, documents, and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Containing
• First aid kit and essential medications.
• Canned food and can opener.
• At least three gallons of water per person.
• Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
• Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
• Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
• Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn them back on.)
• Identify where you could go if told to evacuate. Choose several places -- a friend's home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.

When a Flood WATCH Is Issued
• Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
• Fill your car's gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued.

When a Flood WARNING Is Issued
• Closely monitor NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or television for the latest weather forecasts.
• If told to evacuate, do so immediately!

When a Flash Flood WATCH Is Issued
• Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice.

When a Flash Flood WARNING Is Issued
• Or if you think it has already started, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
• Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades . . . they are there for your safety.
• If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

Last Updated: April 2, 2009 4:13 PM

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