Flood Safety

Turn Around Don’t Drown at Flooded Roads — Know What to do Before, During and After a Flood

Click to Enlarge —  Courtesy NOAA

 


Flooding is a coast-to-coast threat to some part of the United States and its territories nearly every day of the year.   This page is designed to teach you how to stay safe in a flood event.   If you know what to do before, during, and after a flood you can increase your chances of survival and better protect your property.  For instance, it is vital to know what to do if you are driving and hit a flooded road. Here you will information describing the different types of flooding and educational info.  You will also learn how the National Weather Service keeps you aware of potentially dangerous flooding situations through alerts and warnings.


What is the difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning issued by the National Weather Service?

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Flood Watch: Be Prepared:

A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.

 

Flood Advisory: Be Aware:

An Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance. A Flood Advisory is issued when flooding is not expected to be bad enough to issue a warning. However, it may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.

 

Flash Flood Warning: Take Action!

A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
Flash Flood Warnings are changing to an Impact-Based format to improve public response. Read the factsheet here.

 

Flood Warning: Take Action!

A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.


Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water.  The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. People underestimate the force and power of water.  Many of the deaths occur in cars swept downstream. Many of these drownings are preventable. Never drive around the barriers blocking a flooded road. The road may have collapsed under that water. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away most cars and just 2 feet of rushing water can carry away SUVs and trucks. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.


RIVER FLOODING

River flooding occurs when river levels rise and overflow their banks or the edges of their main channel and inundate areas that are normally dry. River flooding can be caused by heavy rainfall, dam failures, rapid snowmelt and ice jams. The National Weather Service issues Flood Warnings for designated River Forecast Points where a flood stage has been established.
SEE OUR RIVER FORECASTS PAGES FOR TENNESSEE RIVER AT FLORENCE and TENNESSEE VALLEY AT DECATUR

River flooding is classified as Minor, Moderate, or Major based on water height and impacts along the river that have been coordinated with the NWS and local officials. Minor river flooding means that low-lying areas adjacent to the stream or river, mainly rural areas and farmland and secondary roadways near the river flood. Moderate flooding means water levels rise high enough to impact homes and businesses near the river and some evacuations may be needed. Larger roads and highways may also be impacted. Major flooding means that extensive rural and/or urban flooding is expected. Towns may become isolated and major traffic routes may be flooded. Evacuation of numerous homes and business may be required.

There is an additional level of flooding known as record flooding. In many cases this falls into the major flood category, but it doesn’t have to. A record flood is simply one where the water reaches a level higher than it ever has been recorded before. Therefore, record flooding can cause extensive damage or even no damage or other negative impacts at all.


BEFORE A FLOOD

Create a Communications Plan
It is important to be able to communicate with your family and friends in the event of a disaster. Whether it is having a specific person identified to contact for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members, having a plan in place will give you peace of mind if disaster does strike.

Assemble an Emergency Kit
It is good practice to have enough food, water and medicine on hand at all times to last you at least 3 days in the case of an emergency. Water service may be interrupted or unsafe to drink and food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration may be needed if electric power is interrupted. You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a NOAA Weather Radio or other battery operated radio easily available.

Know Your Risk
Is your home, business or school in a floodplain? Where is water likely to collect on the roadways you most often travel? What is the fastest way to get to higher ground? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can save your life.

Prepare Your Home
Sometimes floods develop slowly and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs. Oftentimes flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.

  1. If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from flood waters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you may think.
  2. Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent flood waters from backing up into the drains of your home. Make sure your sump pump is working and consider having a backup. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home.
  3. Since standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, ensure coverage by contacting your insurance company or agent to purchase flood insurance. This must be done before there is even a threat of flooding as insurance companies stop issuing policies if there is a threat of flooding. (i.e. an approaching hurricane). Many flood insurance policies take at least 30 days to go into effect so even if you can buy it as a storm is approaching, it may not protect your investment.

Prepare your Family/Pets
You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment to gather the essentials for yourself, your family and/or your pets.

Charge Your Essential Electronics
Make sure your cell phone and portable radios are all charged in case you lose power or need to evacuate. Also make sure you have back-up batteries on hand.

Leave
If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself! Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger.


DURING A FLOOD

During a flood, water levels and the rate the water is flowing can quickly change. Remain aware and monitor local radio and television outlets. Avoid flood waters at all costs and evacuate immediately when water starts to rise. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

  • Stay Informed:
    Listen to radio and television, including NOAA Weather Radio if possible, check the Internet and social media for information and updates.
  • Get to Higher Ground:
    If you live in a flood prone area or are camping in a low lying area, get to higher ground immediately.
  • Obey Evacuation Orders:
    If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect utilities and appliances.
  • Practice Electrical Safety:
    Don’t go into a basement, or any room, if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged. If you see sparks or hear buzzing, crackling, snapping or popping noises–get out! Stay out of water that may have electricity in it!
  • Avoid Flood Waters:
    Don’t walk through flood waters. It only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point and call 911 if possible. Do NOT drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade; Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc. A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds 12 inches of water can float a car or small SUV, 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles.

 


AFTER A FLOOD

When flood waters recede, the damage left behind can be devastating and present many dangers. Images of flood destruction depict destroyed homes and buildings, damaged possessions, and decimated roadways. However, what you can’t see can be just as dangerous. Floodwaters often become contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Gas leaks and live power lines can be deadly, but are not obvious at first glance.

  • Stay Informed:
    Stay tuned to your local news for updated information on road conditions. Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Authorities may ask you to boil water for a while after a flood. Utility companies often have apps to update you on getting service back. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms when areas are dealing with power outages. Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage.
  • Avoid Flood Waters:
    Standing water hides many dangers including toxins and chemicals. There may be sharp objects under the water or the road could have collapsed. If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait for evacuation order, get out! Talk to friends and family about emergency visits. If you have pets, take them with you or get them somewhere safe.
  • Avoid Disaster Areas:
    Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence may hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
  • Heed Road Closed and Cautionary Signs:
    Road closure and other cautionary signs are put in place for your safety. Pay attention to them!
  • Wait for the All Clear:
    Do not enter a flood damaged home or building until you’re given the All Clear by authorities. If you enter a flood damaged building, be extremely careful. Water can cause floods to collapse, ceiling to fall, etc. Make sure the electrical system has been turned off. Have the power company or a qualified electrician fix wires. Contact your insurance agent to discuss property damage.  If you have a generator, follow proper safety procedures.  DO NOT FEED YOUR GENERATORS INTO YOUR BREAKER PANEL MAIN BUSSES WITH JUMPER CABLES.  A UL Listed Generator Transfer Switch/Panel and connection point needs to be installed.  Directly feeding your panel buss can backfeed into the electrical lines going from your home out to the main services lines.  This means that you are putting Electrical Servicemens’ life in an high risk of losing their life. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU ARE NOT PROPERLY TRAINED.
  • Contact Your Family and Loved Ones:
    Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay so they can help spread the word to other

The National Weather Service issues many hydrology related products. Some are to warn you of potential hazards; others are information statements to keep you up to date on changing weather and river situations. Below are the most commonly issued products along with a brief explanation of what they mean to you!

“Take Action!” when these products are issued

Warnings or Advisories are issued when confidence is greater than 80% that an event will occur. Depending on the type of event, these may be issued anywhere from hours before an event to days in advance of an event.

Flash Flood Warning
Flood Warning
Flood Advisory
Special Weather Statement

 

“Be Prepared” when these products are issued

Watch products associated with flooding are typically issued within a day or more of the event. The confidence level for an event to occur when a Watch is issued is 50-80%. When a Watch is issued, you should begin to gather more information about the situation and determine what actions you will need to take should a warning be issued.

Flash Flood Watch
Flood Watch

 

“Be Aware” when these products are issued

Outlook products are issued days, weeks or even months in advance of the event. The confidence level for an event highlighted in an outlook to occur is less than 50%. When an Outlook is issued, you should take note. This serves as a “heads-up” that you may be impacted and gives you a general timeline of when the event could occur.

Hydrologic Outlook
Hazardous Weather Outlook

 

Products to keep you informed

The products listed below are produced to keep the public and NWS partners up to date on the latest forecast information.

River Forecast
Flash Flood Statement
Flood Statement
River Recreation Statement
Public Information Statements


See More Education Materials, Public Service Announcements, Brochures, & Much More on the National Weather Service Flood Education Page