Flooding From Hurricanes

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Flooding From Hurricanes

The next time you hear hurricane -- think flooding!

While storm surge has the highest potential to cause hurricane related deaths, more people died from flooding associated with tropical systems from 1970-1999. Since the 1970's, flooding has been responsible for more than half of all deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States. Flooding from hurricanes can occur hundreds of miles from the coast. That places communities that would not normally be affected by the strongest hurricane winds, in great danger.

Facts About Inland Flooding From Hurricanes

  • From 1970-1999, 78% of children killed by hurricanes drowned in freshwater floods.
  • One cubic yard of water weighs 1700 lbs. The average automobile weighs 3400 lbs. Many automobiles will float in just two feet of water.
  • The average person can be swept off their feet in 6 inches of moving water.
  • The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water.
  • At least 23% of U.S. hurricane deaths happen to people who drown inside their cars or trying to get out of them.
  • Rainfall is typically heavier with slower moving storms.
  • Some of the greatest rainfall amounts associated are seen in weaker Tropical Storms that have a slow forward speed (1 to 10 mph) or stall over an area. Due to the amount of rainfall a Tropical Storm can produce, they are capable of causing as much damage as a category 2 hurricane.
  • Hurricanes are capable of producing copious amounts of rainfall. During landfall, rainfall amounts of 10-15 inches or more is common. If the storm is large and moving slowly, less than 10 mph, the rainfall amounts from a well-organized storm are likely to be even higher. This heavy rain usually occurs slightly to the right of the hurricane's track. The amount of rain depends on the size, forward speed and whether the hurricane interacts with other weather systems.
  • To get a generic estimate of the rainfall amount (in inches) that can be expected, divide 100 by the storm's forward motion, for example, 100/5 mph = 20 inches of rain.
  • Tropical Storm Claudette (1979) brought 45 inches of rain to an area near Alvin, Texas, contributing to more than $600 million in damage.

Flooding Safety Actions

Flood Insurance

Anywhere it can rain, it can flood. If you live on a hill or in an area that has never been flooded, you may still be at some level of risk. Flood insurance is the best protection that home and business owners have against the devastating financial losses that floods cause. Evaluate your insurance coverage regularly; as construction changes the landscape of an area, it can also change the flood plain. Find out if your property is in a flood area. If it is, consider what mitigation measures you can take in advance. Learn your vulnerability to flooding by determining the elevation of your property.

Flood insurance covers buildings and/or contents for residential and non-residential structures. It’s important to know what your policy covers and how you would go about filing a claim. For example, unless you have contents coverage you can’t claim personal property loss. Use this list as a general guide, but read your policy for more information!

Covered by Flood InsuranceNot Covered
  • The insured building
  • Built-in appliances and central heating and air conditioning systems
  • Permanently installed paneling, wallpaper, cabinets and carpets
  • Garage (up to 10 percent of total building coverage)
  • Limited coverage for basements
  • Debris removal
  • Contents (only if contents coverage has been purchased)
  • Vehicles
  • Decks
  • Land and fences
  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Currency
  • Boats
  • Swimming pools
  • Contents of basements

Before A Flood

In addition to getting insurance, there’s plenty you can do to prepare for a flood.

In highly flood-prone areas, keep materials on hand like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, plastic garbage bags, lumber, shovels, work boots and gloves.

Be aware of streams, drainage channels and areas known to flood, so you are not cut off from your evacuation route.

If a flood is likely in your area, keep informed using the local television or radio stations.

If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

Make sure your sump pump is working.

Make sure any photos or videos of all of your important possessions are easily accessible for an evacuation or kept in a separate, safe place. These documents will help you file a full flood insurance claim.

Store important documents and irreplaceable personal objects (such as photographs) where they won't get damaged. If major flooding is expected, move furniture and valuables to the upper levels of your home.

During A Flood

You have flood insurance and have done your best to prepare. Here’s what you can do once flooding has started to keep your family safe.

Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can sweep your feet out from under you. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.

Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

If told to evacuate your home, do so immediately.

If the waters start to rise inside your house before you have evacuated, retreat to the second floor, the attic, or if necessary, the roof.

Floodwaters may carry raw sewage, chemical waste and other disease-spreading substances. If you've come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water.

Electric current passes easily through water, so stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.

Animals lose their homes in floods, too. Be aware that even domesticated animals may be confused and unpredictable in a flood situation.

After A Flood

Once water levels have dropped, here’s what you can do to stay safe and start the recovery process.

Restrict children from playing in flooded areas. Aside from the drowning dangers, there can be disease in the water.

If your home has suffered damage, call the agent who handles your flood insurance to file a claim. If you are unable to stay in your home, let the agent know where you can be reached.

Check for structural damage before re-entering your home—you don’t want to be trapped in a building collapse.

Take photos of any water in the house and save damaged personal property. This will make filing your claim easier. If necessary, place these items outside the home. An insurance adjuster will need to see what's been damaged in order to process your claim.

Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their age and value where possible. If possible, supply receipts for those lost items to the adjuster. Officials may require disposal of damaged items. If so, keep a swatch or other sample of the items for the adjuster.

Prevent mold by removing wet contents immediately. Wet carpeting, furniture, bedding, and any other items holding moisture or water inside the building can develop mold within 24-48 hours. Items should be cleaned with a phenolic or pine-oil cleaner and bleach solution, completely dried, and monitored for several days for any fungal growth and odors. If any mold develops, throw the item away.

Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.

Avoid using the toilets and the tap until you have checked for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect damage, call a plumber.

Throw away any food including canned goods that have come in contact with floodwaters.

Boil water for drinking and food preparation until local authorities declare your water supply to be safe.

Flood Zones

Flood Zones

Everyone lives in a flood zone. Flood zones indicate areas of low, moderate and high risk. In low- and moderate-risk zones flooding can still occur. The risk is reduced but not removed.

The fact that a flood hasn't occurred in recent years does not mean that one hasn't happened in the past or that one will not happen in the future. But flood history is only one element used in determining flood risk. Determinations are also based on evaluating your community's rainfall and river-flow data, topography, tidal surge, flood control measures, and building development (existing and planned).

Using such data, flood hazard maps have been created for most of the nation. These maps show the locations of low-, moderate- and high-risk zones.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency develops Flood Insurance Rate Maps to show potential flood areas. These maps are used by home lending organizations and insurance companies to determine whether flood insurance may be mandatory for a homeowner. Areas within an A or V designation fall within a mandatory insurance zone. Some flood zones also place elevation requirements on homes.