Floods are the most common natural disaster, and floods kill more people each year than any other weather disaster. There are different types of flooding that can be caused by heavy rain, snow melt, or dam or levee failures. Floods can happen very quickly or over a long period of time and may persist for just a few hours or even days. If does not have to take a lot of water to cause flooding. Just a few inches of swift-moving water can knock you off your feet or sweep your car away. Never drive through flooded roadways. Stay away from swollen streams and rivers.
Coastal flooding is usually the result of a severe weather system such as a tropical storm or hurricane, which contains an element of high winds. The damaging effects of coastal floods are caused by a combination of storm surge, wind, rain, erosion and battering by debris. Eastern North Carolina experienced record-setting floods during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018.
Floods: Know the Terms
Flood Watch: Rainfall is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow their banks. Flooding is possible.
Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or very likely to happen in an affected river, lake or tidewater area. If told to leave, do so immediately.
Flash Flood Watch: Flash flooding in specified areas is possible. Be alert! You may need to take quick action.
Flash Flood Warning: Flash flooding is occurring or is likely to happen along certain streams and select areas. Get to a safe place immediately!
You should know that anywhere it rains, it can flood. Floods can even be in areas with a low risk of flooding. Just because you haven't had a flood in the past doesn't mean you won't in the future. Flood risk is based on a lot of factors including rainfall, landscape, flood-control measures, river-flow and tidal-surge data, flood history and changes due to new construction and development.
Learn the flood risk where you live. This helps figure out the type of flood insurance coverage you need. Regular homeowners and renters insurance don't cover flooding. The lower the degree of risk of flooding, the lower the flood insurance premium.
To prepare for a flood:
- Avoid building in a flood-prone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
- Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
- Install check valves in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.
- Raise up the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in a high flood risk area.
- If you can, build barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building. Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
- Be aware of potential flash flooding. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move to higher ground. Do not wait to be told to move.
- If time allows, prepare your home for a flood by moving essential items to an upper floor, bring in outdoor furniture, disconnect electrical appliances and be prepared to turn off the gas, electricity and water.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. 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 an move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle could be quickly swept away.
- After a flood, listen for news reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
- Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Even if the roadway of a bridge or elevated highway looks normal, the support structures below may be damaged.
- Stay clear of downed power lines and report them to your power company.
- Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly to foundations. Stay out of any building that is surrounded by floodwaters.
- Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and other harmful chemicals.