Coastal or Inland: Where it Rains – It Can Flood

By John Zarrella – Former CNN Correspondent

The rain had been coming down for days.  By the early morning hours of November 6, 1977, an earthen dam near the North Georgia town of Toccoa couldn’t take it any longer and ruptured. The people at a tiny Bible College downstream were mostly asleep when the flood waters hit.  Thirty-nine perished. Many were children.

At the time, I was working for a local Atlanta television station.  I had only been in the business a couple of years.  Now, nearly forty years later, Toccoa remains the deadliest flood event I was ever involved in covering.

Unless you hatoccoa03d relatives there or were a journalist, Toccoa is one of those largely forgotten moments in history.   But it is, and should be, a tragic reminder of how quickly inland flooding can change or even take your life.

At Toccoa the people never had a chance.  But in most flooding events, people who die didn’t have to. That’s right, they didn’t have to! How many times have you heard this:  “Some of these people on the highway trying to drive through this stuff—they’re very stupid.” That was a quote to CNN from a Missouri flood victim this past December.

If you look at federal statistics, more than half of all flood related deaths come when a car is driven into water.  Bill Read is a former Director of the National Hurricane Center.  Even in hurricanes, inland flooding is the number one killer.  Read told me, “they don’t think it’s as bad as it really is and they drive into it and it’s too late when they finally figure out its going to float their car.”

People who survive always, Read says, have the same refrain, “The people that are rescued or made it out alive they almost invariable say ‘I didn’t think it was going to be that bad.’”

It’s not as if the “stay out of the water” messaging isn’t out there.  The “Turn Around Don’t Drown” program by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and the National Weather Service is exactly what it says.  Don’t drive into that water!   The yellow signs are in high risk, low lying areas around the country.  Local meteorologists always get out that message to their audience whenever there’s a flood threat.

Over the course of forty years, Read has seen every kind of flooding imaginable – from hurricanes, flash floods, to riverine.  “The most phenomenal thing to me was just the incredible rate of rainfall. We’ve had events where the hourly rainfall rates approach 4 to 6 inches in an hour. Almost nobody lives in an area that can be designed to handle the runoff from that kind of rain. So it almost invariably leads to rather severe flooding.”

Read’s takeaway from all he’s witnessed, we must be aware of our risk.  And he adds, that risk is not is not isolated to one part of the country or another.  “When you come right down to it there’s no place in the U.S. that’s not vulnerable to inland flooding.”

Just last year major flooding events occurred in Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina, Florida.  If you know you are at risk, there are measures you can take to protect your home and property. The most import of which is to get a flood insurance policy.  Consider elevating your air conditioning unit, water heater, and furnace. For more tips and information, go to the FLASH website.

Sometimes there’s just no rhyme or reason. Bad weather “stuff” just happens. It’s fickle, unpredictable, weird, and strange. You can attach all sorts of adjectives to it.

Back in 2008, Tropical Storm Fay set a record-making four landfalls in Florida.  Unpredictable, weird, fickle, strange…you pick the adjective.  As it meandered across the state, it just kept dumping water. In some places more than twenty inches fell.  North of Melbourne the rain gauges swelled to a record twenty-seven inches.

We started chasing Fay on August 17 for CNN in Key West and Key Largo.  The next three days, reporting from Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and Melbourne required high water boots. At a place called Lamplighter Village, Florida Wildlife officers used swamp buggies to go in and rescue folks. As always, some wouldn’t leave. All the wildlife officials could say, “If you decide to get out, give us a call.”

In Port St. Lucie, a volunteer rescuer got people out in an airboat, again, those who would leave. His warning to the others, “Just try not to wait too late. It’s easier in the daylight than it is at night.  Everything bad happens at night.”

Tropical Storm Fay is a poster child for all those adjectives, and how it can happen anywhere.  And the message is clear, bad weather “stuff” happens.  Know your risk.

Safe Rooms Save Lives

By John Zarrella – Former CNN Correspondent

I had been in Oklahoma City (OKC) for just over a week. It was 1995. Spring, a time for rebirth, was put on hold and buried beneath crumbled concrete and shattered lives. Many of us had gone in to cover the aftermath of the bombing at the Murray Federal Building. Crews and reporters had been rotating in and out since the horrific April 19th attack.

By now, April had turned to May. The seventh was a quiet Sunday. We were staffing the CNN workspace in case there were any developments on the bombing. But the story that day centered more on the weather. The local stations were reporting that the atmosphere was ripe for supercells. They were right.

By midafternoon, bulletins were coming in of a half-mile-wide tornado on the ground west of Ardmore, a city one hundred miles to the south of OKC. This tornado dissipated after killing an elderly man and injuring several other people.  But this supercell wasn’t done. It recycled and a second tornado, just as big, dropped out of the sky crossing the Red River and heading toward Ardmore.

We were nearly two hours away, but there was no question we had to go. This could be really bad. I had chased plenty of hurricanes over the years but never a tornado. I kept scanning the landscape around us, half believing that I’d see one suddenly appear. I remember as we drove south thinking just how strange the clouds looked and that the colors were an eerie cotton candy—unlike any I’d seen in Florida.  A Michelin tire factory had reportedly been hit hard, and we headed there first. Of course, by the time we arrived, the tornado was gone. The tornado also damaged some nearby buildings on the outskirts of Ardmore but lifted up just before it reached the heart of the city. They were fortunate that day. Combined the two tornadoes were on the ground for about a combined sixty miles.

Fast forward twenty years, and I’m suddenly connected back to that Spring in OKC. Pataya Scott, a PHD candidate at Texas Tech University told me growing up in Oklahoma City she had spent, “lots of time in a closet under the stairs.” Pataya was one of several brilliant University students at the FLASH Annual Conference giving presentations on their work in various fields of disaster mitigation.

These students were studying roofing systems, human behavior and response before and after disasters, communications, and hurricane winds. Pataya is studying the devastating 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado. She explained, “I’ll be looking at remote sensing data on damage from the Joplin tornado so things like aerial photos, drive by photos, and Google street views seeing the level of damage for each building. So, it’s going to take a lot of time analyzing all those six thousand documented damaged buildings.”

On the ground for twenty-two miles and thirty-eight minutes, the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado killed nearly 160 people. Pataya is focusing on construction, wind direction, materials, and architecture; and is determining what kind of buildings hold up better, for instance homes with attached garages and those without.

“Two story buildings area usually more robust so they’re going to do a little better than one story, but how much better is what I’m going to see,” she says. Pataya is just now finishing up the database. Time to start answering the questions!

In listening to Pataya’s work, I was immediately struck by how far the disaster mitigation movement has come in twenty years. Sure, there was talk about it back in 1995, three years after Hurricane Andrew. That storm was the wake-up call. But today, mitigation addresses all perils.

Dr. Ernst Kiesling has spent a lifetime studying tornado mitigation. Shelters are his expertise. “I would have thought in terms of storm shelters we’d be a little further along,” he says, “But overall, I’m grateful for the progress.  We’ve taken a lot of steps, lots of small steps.  We’re getting there.”

As we ramp up toward the height of tornado season, Kiesling says it’s a double edged sword. “We worry about the vulnerability of communities, but also take heart that there is an increase in interest in tornado shelters and improved construction. So, there’s good news and bad news with that because we certainly see with every major tornado an uptick in public consciousness of safety and increased sales in storm shelters and better readiness for the future.”

However, he warns that not all that glitters is gold. Consumers need to carefully consider what they are getting when purchasing a shelter. “There are excellent products available, but there’s also a lot of stuff that’s not good on the market. We have a real problem in quality control and requiring standard compliance, and it’s not a regulated industry.”

Back in 1995, the people of Ardmore were very fortunate. They got lucky. But today, science, engineering, and public awareness is finally beginning to remove luck from the equation. As Dr. Kiesling says, “we’re doing pretty darn well.”

Related Links 

Community Tornado Shelter “Absolutely Saved Lives” in Alabama 

Tale of Two Homes – Tornado 

Keep Calm, Be Prepared, and El Niño On

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By John Zarrella – Former CNN Correspondent

El Niño – it means the child or the Christ Child in Spanish. However, the name is a terrible contradiction. El Niño conjures the image of a beautiful, cherubic baby. It is certainly not that. One climatologist describes this weather phenomenon as, “mudslides in Los Angeles and golfing in Minneapolis. And there can be a lot of chaos in between.”

Well, what is an El Niño? An El Niño is a warming of the Equatorial Pacific waters. Fishermen in South America gave it the name El Niño because the waters would get warm around Christmas time and the fish would disappear. These days, everybody seems to be talking about it. You can’t pick up a paper or turn on the news without seeing a story. In fact, as I was writing this, an old friend at CBS was doing a piece on it for Sunday Morning. Clearly, El Niño is already a headline maker, and it hasn’t yet kicked into full throttle.

NASA climatologist Bill Patzert at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California has likened this one to one of the all-time greatest monsters, “It’s truly the Godzilla El Niño,” Patzert told me. If it is not the most powerful yet, he believes it soon will be based on the satellite images and data he’s analyzing. And, this El Niño may have played a role in the recent deadly tornadoes in the South and the short sleeve and shorts winter weather in the Northeast.

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So why so much interest now? In a word: worry. Really intense El Niño events seem to take place about every 15 years give or take: 1982-83, 1997-98, which is the strongest to date. They have profound impacts on the weather, flooding and mudslides in California; wet, turbulent weather in Texas and along the Gulf Coast; and warm conditions in the Northeast. “So all the pieces on the weather board are rearranged and there’s a lot of volatility not just in the U.S. but across the planet,” according to Patzert.

That volatility left 42 people dead and 260 injured in Central Florida in February 1998. Seven tornadoes touched down overnight during the worst outbreak ever in the state.

Is that or something similar going to happen again? No one knows because as Mike Halpert says, “No two El Niño’s are alike.”

Halpert is Deputy Director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.  The scientists there measure El Niño’s strength not only by the ocean’s heat but how the atmosphere is reacting to it.  Halpert said, “What we think is really more important isn’t what the ocean does, it’s what the atmosphere overlying the ocean does because, that’s what kicks off the rest of the impacts globally.”

So far, Harpert says, this El Niño is weaker in the atmosphere than the two previous big El Niño events.  Does that mean the impacts will be less severe? Possibly but, there’s no way to know. Why?  Halpert says there just isn’t enough of an El Niño sample size.  He added, “We don’t have good data that goes back thousands of years. I mean we haven’t seen that many of these kinds of things.”

Frankly, it really does not matter where this occurrence of El Niño lands in the power rankings. It’s all about when the dust settles, how bad was it? We’ve already seen the first glimpses. And even though the sample size is small, there’s enough historical data, scientists say, to tell us we need to be prepared.

There’s still time to get prepared, but don’t put it off any longer. Start by making sure you have a NOAA weather radio, plus a smartphone app like FLASH Weather Alerts that includes “follow me” technology and text-to-speech alerting. You can select alerts for all the different weather hazards, including flood, freeze, and tornadoes.

If you know your area is prone to flooding or mudslides, remember “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”, and never cross a flooded roadway. Keep sandbags on hand, and make sure you have up-to-date flood insurance. Do you have emergency supplies on hand including bottled water? You need to! Have you taken a recent inventory of everything you own? If not, do it now. If you are in a tornado threat area, consider installing a tornado safe room or shelter, but make sure it is either built using FEMA 320 or the ICC 500 standard.

For the U.S., the big “worry” months have just arrived. “Beginning in January and February”, Patzert told me, “we should see a convoy of storms coming straight out of the Western Pacific slamming into California and Southwest Texas and these storms actually get pumped up as they go over the Northern Gulf of Mexico and some of the worst damage may be in Florida.”

For all the misery El Niño can dish out, there are a couple plusses. Scientists say it won’t end the drought in California but it should make a dent, and a warm winter saves the U.S. billions in heating costs.

The experts believe this El Niño will likely last into the late spring and could linger into early summer. What comes next? Halpert says, “It’s a good bet that when this El Niño ends the next thing we have will be a La Niña.” During a La Niña, the waters in the Pacific cool off, and the weather patterns change. Where El Niño events put a lid on Atlantic Hurricanes, La Niña’s are like muscle milk to Atlantic storms! Hurricane Season could become interesting.

Related Links

Flash Weather Alerts App – Mobilize Your Weather Radio

How to Protect Your Home from Flood Damage

Jet Propulsion Lab

“Turn Around, Don’t Drown

Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You?

Hurricane Center Director Deconstructs “Lite” Season

By John Zarrella – Former CNN Correspondent

It’s over. Put a fork in it. The 2015 Hurricane season is done. You get six months to exhale unless something crazy stupid happens! No more looking over the shoulder out into the Atlantic or Gulf wondering if that puff of clouds might grow into the next named storm. No more wondering if this might be the year your town or city’s luck runs out.

Unfortunately we, the collective we who live in harm’s way, don’t really seem to wonder near enough. And if you’re not wondering then you’re certainly not doing much to prepare. Over the years, study after study has shown most folks living along the coastal United States from Maine to Texas don’t give hurricanes much thought until one is about to beat down their door.

And that is troubling to the experts. I talked recently with National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb. “I fear that so many coastal and inland residents at risk to wind and water hazards have forgotten how to get ready for the next hurricane season. We must take action now to survive the storm and be resilient in the aftermath.”

Sadly, it’s the same refrain Knabb’s predecessors shared with me over and over again, decade after decade. Whether it was Bob Sheets or Max Mayfield or Bill Read or Jerry Jarrell and all the way back to Neil Frank the fear was people were not paying attention. Bottom line, not much has changed. The directors talk, we don’t listen.

Sure there are spikes in attention the season after a big one hits like an Andrew, Hugo, or Katrina. But then you get a few years in a row of relative calm and we, that collective we again, fall back into our old complacency. For every Hurricane Center director, complacency was the first ingredient in that recipe for disaster.

Knabb says one of his great frustrations is that it really doesn’t take a whole lot of heavy lifting to be ready, “Here’s a start to your hurricane resilience to do list: create an evacuation plan, buy supplies, update insurance, including flood, and strengthen your home.”

So, why put it off? Now that you can exhale, now that the season is over, there’s no better time to get your plan together. For thirty-five years going back to David and Frederick in 1979, I have covered hurricanes. The common denominator in every, single storm was last minute panic. There were no exceptions. You’ve seen the images, cars backed up for miles as people flee the storm. Supermarkets wiped out. How about the long, long endless lines that snaked around gas stations? The guy with the plywood sheets roped down to his compact car. And that’s just before the storm hits! Really? Do you look forward to that?

No one can tell you what next season will bring. Who could have predicted Florida, the peninsula that sticks out like a sore thumb would have gone ten years without a hurricane? Director Knabb says that doesn’t change his outlook, “I don’t know how much longer we have until we get another Florida hurricane, but they’re coming back at some point. I live in Florida, and I’m going to continue to plan every year as if my house could be hit by a hurricane.”

2015 was an El Nino year. Strong winds helped keep a lid on hurricane activity and shielded the U.S. mainland. But as Knabb says, it didn’t shield the Bahamas from Joaquin. “Do you think the people in the Bahamas care about how many numbers of storms there were this year? They care that they got hit. And that really is at the end of the day all that matters. And we can get hit in any year. We can get hit in any era, El Nino or not, and everybody tends to look for this thing that they can hang their hat on and say ‘ok, this season it’s not my problem’, but it is our problem every year.”

Here’s a case in point from the Zarrella personal experience archives. This hurricane season ended with eleven named storms. The last was November’s Hurricane Kate which turned away from land. Thirty years ago, the 1985 season ended with eleven named storms. You know the name of the eleventh? Kate. It too was a November hurricane. But, it didn’t turn out to sea.

My crew and I were in an RV. I probably should have thought that one through a little more! But, back in those days, the dark ages of television, we didn’t have satellite trucks lined up every few miles along the coastline. The RV was our production facility on wheels. We loaded it with food, camera equipment, and edit machines. We could shoot, write, and edit our stories all in one place and then drive to a feed point. It worked just fine until November 21.

We were heading down a two lane road towards Mexico Beach, Florida in the Panhandle. Problem was category two Kate got there first. So here we are in this RV as the storm comes ashore. Pine trees are snapping. The rain hit the windshield so hard and heavy that you could see absolutely nothing. It was a white out. The RV was trembling. Looking out the side window, I saw the tin roof of a barn lift off, then sail across a field until it was blown to bits.

My cameramen Doug Hart and Rudy Marshall were yelling, “We’ve got to get back to that house we saw up the road.” The roar of the storm outside was so loud you had to yell. My editor Steve Sonnenblick was behind the wheel. He began backing the RV up the road. There was no way we could turn around. The wind and rain was hitting us head on. If we attempted to turn, the RV would have been broadsided, and I have no doubt, would have flipped.

I don’t know how far we drove in reverse. It may have been a half a mile or so. But when you are driving in reverse on a two lane road in the middle of a hurricane, it takes a whole heck of a lot longer than you want! When we got close enough, we left the RV on the side of the road, ran for the house, and started banging on the front door. The husband and wife were more than a little bewildered seeing four guys standing on their porch, but they graciously let us in to ride out the storm.

The point is, as Knabb and all the other National Hurricane Center Directors have repeated until they were blue in the face, you have to be ready. You need a plan whether it’s June, November, or anytime in between. Why risk your life or the lives of your loved ones. No one has a crystal ball. No one can tell you when or if. Director . Knabb says, “We learned this season that you can have really, really horrible impacts in what had been forecast to be a below average year and what has been an El Nino year.”

And by the way, we never rented an RV again to cover a hurricane!

Foam, Dome & Drip – Tips for Preventing Frozen Pipes

 

As freezing temperatures threaten, prevent frozen water pipes, one of the costliest threats to your home, with three easy steps:

#1: FOAM

#2: DOMEBurst pipe

#3: DRIP

FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months.

DOME: Place an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots to reduce the likelihood of water pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak.

DRIP: Allow a slow drip from your faucets to reduce the buildup of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, the released pressure in the water system will reduce the likelihood of a rupture. If you are going out of town and suspect the temperature will drop, turn off the water and open all of the taps to drain the water system. This way pipes won’t
freeze and you won’t return home to a mess.

Your local home improvement store will have all of the tools and expertise you will need to complete these steps. FOAM, DOME, DRIP your way to a safe winter season free of costly home repairs.

For more information on protecting your home from extreme cold conditions, visit www.flash.org. To stay abreast of severe weather alerts and find more mitigation tips, download FLASH Weather Alerts at www.flashweatheralerts.org.

Hurricane Wilma – Distant Memory or Timely Reminder?

By John Zarrella – Former CNN Correspondent

The sign in front of the Ramada Inn Hotel in Pensacola, Florida stood on a pole about fifty feet off the ground. The manager at the front desk told us not to worry—it had withstood Hurricane Ivan the year before. That’s nice I thought, and proceeded to tell the camera crews not to park underneath it. Turned out that was good advice.

It was July 2005, the morning of July 10 to be exact. Anderson Cooper and his team had just rolled in from Panama City where one on air personality is reported to have said as they left, “dead men walking!” I guess that phrase is appropriate anytime you are planning to stand out in the middle of a hurricane.

Cooper and I would tag team this one together. That afternoon hurricane season 2005 kicked into gear, high gear as the “D” storm Dennis came ashore. As the storm hit, we huddled against a wall at the corner of the hotel. The wind blew, pine trees snapped and guess what, that Ramada Inn sign that had survived Ivan started spinning like a top, flew off its mounting, and crashed down in the parking lot. Chunks of razor sharp aluminum went airborne. Anyway, the video evidence of our “dead men walking” moment is still all over YouTube. Cooper

Of course, no one had a clue that Dennis was just foreshadowing worse storms to come, life altering events from Katrina to Rita and finally Wilma. So here we are approaching ten years since Wilma hit South Florida. And that means ten years of relative calm here, ten years of tropical tranquility.

My season of the stowilmarms had started with “D” and ended with “W.” Wilma, you may recall, had at one point 175 mile per hour sustained winds and the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin. It hammered the Yucatan Peninsula as a category four hurricane. Then it took a right turn, accelerated to the east, and made a beeline towards Florida.

Anderson and I were again joined at the rain slicker for Wilma. He emailed, asking where I thought we should be. I suggested Marco Island on the west coast close to where most folks thought it would make landfall. I was pretty close. The storm came ashore near Naples as a Category three hurricane. We were near the center of it. The eye took a good hour to pass over us on the morning of October 24. We stood out on the beach for this one. No Ramada Inn sign to worry about!

But, while I was right about landfall, I was really, really wrong about where the worst impact would be! The west coast made out pretty well, but the reports out of Broward and Palm Beach Counties on the east coast were not good. My own home in the town of Davie near Fort Lauderdale took a pretty good punch. Since I’m not a meteorologist I will spare you the meteorology. Why it did what it did is a good read from the real experts at the National Hurricane Center. For me, Wilma is the poster storm for why it’s critical to be prepared even if you don’t think you’re in much danger.

We left Marco Island at lunchtime and headed east across I-75. As we drove, I tried reaching my wife Robin, but the cell phone lines were jammed. I wasn’t terribly worried about my house. I had shuttered all the openings before leaving for Marco and we had a Miami-Dade hurricane code garage door. I knew my family would be safe. And, as a journalist who covered hurricanes I would have looked like an idiot if I hadn’t taken all the precautions to protect my home. We had plenty of food on hand too.

“What a mess”, was my first thought as I entered our neighborhood. Trees were down, power out and roofs were damaged. A gas grill ended up at the bottom of our friend’s swimming pool, later to be recovered by my sons and their friends who made considerable money in the days after cleaning up debris.

My family was just fine. But my wife warned that while the house looked good from the front, the back, well, not so much. There was a huge pine tree down by the lake. It snapped at the base but no, it couldn’t fall harmlessly into the lake, it had to fall on the screened enclosure over the pool. The enclosure crumbled and Wilma’s winds threw some of the beams onto the roof raking the tiles.

There wasn’t much I could do about any of this at the moment. Overall, it was just cosmetic damage. Close to six figures worth, but we were fortunate. And, I still had to work. That night Cooper and I were on the Larry King show. Much of Broward County and parts of Palm Beach County were a mess.

Here’s one of the great Wilma ironies. Florida prided itself on being the best prepared for hurricanes. Yet less than twenty-four hours after the storm, thousands of people were lined up for water and ice. Most gas stations were closed because they didn’t have generators. CNN sent in a fuel truck to keep us going. One hundred thousand people waited in lines for emergency food stamps.

One Broward official told me, “I think we need to do a better job on the ‘how to’ in their preparations.”

Some six million people were without power. If you didn’t have a generator you were in trouble. One of our friends living in Atlanta drove down with a couple for their family here. But, even if you had a portable generator, you couldn’t get fuel. A neighbor loaded gas cans in his truck and drove to Fort Myers to find it. At the time I remember wishing I had a standby generator that can run for more than a week. I do now!

So Wilma became known as the Urban Storm because it took out so many trees that took out so many power lines. Some people were without juice for close to a month. Ours came back on Halloween afternoon, eight days after Wilma hit. There was one bit of good fortune. The cold front that forced the hurricane to turn right and race across Florida pushed through right after the storm exited bringing cool, bearable October weather.

Six weeks later as Christmas approached, the Wilma effect resulted in an odd holiday shopping trend. The hottest selling gifts were coolers, flashlights, and propane powered stoves. A manager at Outdoor World told me, “We’ve had people come in here and actually buy for their kids three, four, five different types of stoves and they’re going to give them as Christmas gifts.”

One woman bought thirty, I’m not kidding, thirty lanterns. An author even wrote a book called the “Storm Gourmet Cook Book,” how to prepare good meals without power. It sold out just in time for Christmas.

It has now been a decade since Wilma and a decade since South Florida has been hit. You have to wonder with so much time for complacency to set in, would the result be any different now? Or would we again be Christmas shopping for propane stoves and storm cook books?

17 Flood Safety and Cleanup Tips from FLASH

1: Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. It takes only six inches of fast flowing water to sweep you off your feet.

2: Don’t allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.

3: Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. Remember, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”  Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. Water only two feet deep can float away most automobiles.

4: Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.

5: Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to see flooded roads.

After the Flood: Structural Considerations

6: Outside –

  • Check for building stability before entry – sticking doors at the top may indicate a ceiling at risk of collapse.
  • Check foundation for any loose or missing blocks, bricks, stones or mortar.

7: Inside

  • Assess stability of plaster and drywall – any bulging or swelling ceilings indicate damage that should be removed. Press upward on drywall ceilings. If nail heads appear, drywall will need to be re-nailed but can be saved.
  • To prevent warping of wooden doors, remove, and disinfect all knobs and hardware, and lay flat and allow to air dry completely.
  • Remove wet drywall and insulation well above the high water mark.

After the Flood: Insurance Tips  

8Take extensive photos and video for insurance claims. Only flood insurance typically covers damage from floods.

9: Remove damaged items from the home. If you need evidence of damage, save swatches (carpet, curtains, etc.) for your insurance adjuster

After the Flood: Mold & General Clean Up

10: Wash and disinfect all surfaces, including cupboard interiors with a solution of 1/2 cup bleach to two gallons of water. Remove sliding doors and windows before cleaning and disinfect the sliders and the tracks.

11: Clean and disinfect concrete surfaces using a mixture of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water. Mix according to manufacturer’s directions and apply to entire surface.

12: Liquid cleaners can remove mud, silt, and greasy deposits. Liquid detergents work on washable textiles. Use diluted bleach if item is safe for bleach.

13: The National Archives has information on how to clean up your family treasures. Although it may be difficult to throw certain items away, especially those with sentimental value, experts recommend that if you can’t clean it, you should dispose of it, especially if it has come into contact with water that may contain sewage

After the Flood: Home air quality considerations and mold prevention

14: Clean and disinfect heating, air conditioning, and ventilation ducts before use to avoid spread of airborne germs and mold spores.

15: Use fans and allow in sunlight to dry out interior spaces.

16: To avoid growth of microorganisms, household items should be dried completely before they are brought back in the house. Although the drying process can take a long time, homeowners should be patient because it is necessary to keep a home’s air quality healthy. Some household items may take longer than others to dry, such as upholstered furniture and carpets.

17: Remove wallpaper and coverings that came into contact with floodwaters. Don’t repaint or repair until drying is complete and humidity levels in the home have dropped.

For information visit  FLASH or FEMA.