Think how big a gallon jug is? Consider hundreds of thousands of those jugs, each weighing over 8 pounds, moving. That’s power. Add in the following equation:
Six inches of moving water will take a person down. One foot of moving water can sweep a car away. In the desert. In fact, deserts are particularly prone to flash floods due to rocky terrain and lack of vegetation and dirt to absorb rainfall.
Having commanded a Special Forces A-Team that was focused on Maritime Operations, I learned first-hand the power of water. To demonstrate this, the instructors at the Royal Danish Navy Fromankorpset Combat Swim School had us try to swim to land near the mouth of a river. It easily pushed us back out to sea despite our best efforts.
How Likely Is a Flood In Your Area? FEMA has a web site where you can check the flood map for your location. Remember, though, that if you are traveling, you don’t know the possibilities along roads and in different areas. FEMA Flood Map Service Center
Note that there are many areas that were not in flood zones, that are now included because of rising water levels. A new map as of 2020 includes 6 million more homes than previously mapped.
There are three main types of floods: Coastal (surge) Flood River (fluvial) Flood Surface (pluvial) Flood).
COASTAL: Occurs on coast-lines of large bodies of water as the name implies. It is the result of extreme tides caused by severe weather. Storm surge pushes water onto shore. A storm surge timed with a high tide can be devastating. There are 3 levels: Minor: some beach erosion but no major damage. Moderate: more beach erosion and some damage to homes and businesses. Major: Serious threat to life and property. Large scale beach erosion. Roads will be flooded and structures damaged. Remember that a tidal surge can cause flooding.
When we lived on Hilton Head Island, many people were unaware that almost the entire island is a flood zone. When one friend who lived on the beach heard that there was a possibility of a twelve-foot storm surge, she thought that meant 12 feet horizontal (inland). We had to explain that meant 12 feet vertical which then reaches out horizontally.
If you live in a tidal zone, make sure you understand tide tables. Not all tides are the same. There are ‘spring’ tides which have nothing to do with spring, but rather when the Earth, moon and Sun are in alignment. This occurs twice a month and produces higher than usual tides. Combine a spring tide with storm surge and you have a disaster.
RIVER FLOOD: This happens when excessive rainfall over a period of time overwhelms a river’s capacity to carry the water. It can also be caused by snow melt, ice jams, and debris jams. A dam failure can cause an abrupt and catastrophic form of river flood. And vice versa: a river flood can cause dam and levee failures downstream. There are two types of river floods: Overbank flooding is when the water continues to rise over the banks. Flash flooding occurs when there is an intense, high velocity rainfall. These often are doubly dangerous as debris can be carried by the flood water. Remember, it might not be raining where you are, but the river can flood from rain and run off upstream.
The Big Thompson River flood in Colorado in 1976 killed 144 people. 12 inches of rain fell in four hours. The river is usually an average of eighteen inches deep. After this sudden rain, a wall of water 20 feet high swept through the canyon at 14 miles an hour. Farther down stream there had been no rain at all so this surprised many. The car below was crushed by the river flood.
More and more dams are aging and degrading. During your AREA STUDY, you should know whether you live downstream of a dam and what the potential is. I have a free short read about when the St. Francis Dam failed.
SURFACE FLOOD: This happens separate from an existing body of water. Torrential rainfall overwhelms the area’s normal way of channeling water. Intense rain saturates an urban drainage system and water back flows into streets and structures. Run off isn’t absorbed by the ground and the water level rises. (our house flooded at over a mile high in altitude, on top of a ridge, in Boulder, Colorado, because the rocky ground couldn’t absorb a short, intense period of rain— the ground water simply rose up into it).
A big concern with a surface flood is when the sewage system overflows. Also, floods can cause many stored toxins to be inundated and poison the flood waters. NEVER DRINK FLOOD WATER. This is why maintaining an adequate emergency supply of drinking water is critical as tap water sources will be contaminated. The same with a filtering system. More on water in that slideshow.
A Flood Watch means a flood is possible A Flood Warning means a flood is happening Flood Alerts
If you have time, move valuables to the highest level before evacuating. When evacuating, move to higher ground, away from water sources such as rivers or lakes. NEVER go around a barrier on a road during a flood. If evacuating by car avoid standing water. Drive slowly. If walking, never go through moving water. Remember earlier when I gave how much water weighed? Mass times velocity will knock you off your feet and sweep you into deeper water.
Never drive through a flooded road or bridge. Do not stay in a flooded car. If your car is swept away or submerged, stay calm and break the window to get out or go through the sun roof. Hold your breath, open the door, and swim for the surface. You will be in the current. Point your feet downstream. Go over obstacles, never under. Strive to angle toward dry ground but don’t fight directly against the current. If stuck above a flash flood, such as in a tree, stay there and wait for rescue.
While on the water, always wear your life vest. It’s the equivalent of putting your seat belt on in a car. Too many people have drowned with a life vest left on the boat. The very nature of an accident means it’s not anticipated. Therefore, you probably won’t have a chance to put it on before you’re in the water. I wrote an article on how reading a tweet about always wearing a life vest would have saved someone’s friends lives, I started wearing mine all the time and there’s a good chance it saved my life when I capsized in the fast-moving Little River in TN while kayaking.
A good tool to have within reach of your car is a combination seat belt cutter and glass breaker. Your Home If you are caught at home and can’t evacuate: Pack any coolers with as much ice as possible and use this first before opening fridge once power goes out. Fill bathtubs with water. Make sure all vehicles are topped off. Know where the closest shelter for you and pets is. Unplug everything. Do not use tap water after a storm until certain it’s not contaminated.
It’s too late to prepare once the flood is on you. There will also be a huge run of panicked people buying many of these same items, so order it now so you have it ready. This sounds trite, but after every flood, most people list these following items as things they wished they’d had on hand. Not only for the flood itself, but as importantly, for living afterwards in the chaos.
What To Have Ready BEFORE
Water: Enough for at least three days. Minimum is one gallon per person, per day. Double that for warm climates. 8 average 500ml water bottles is just over one gallon. A case of water (24 bottles) is the minimum three days supply per person. I recommend at least two cases per person. WATER
You must have a way of quickly filtering water for your family. Assume all water you find in nature is contaminated. Assume your tap water is contaminated until it is confirmed otherwise.
Non-perishables for three days minimum. Food that doesn’t require refrigeration. Don’t have food that will make you thirsty. Plan for infants and special dietary requirements. Keep separate and out of normal food rotation. Note expiration dates.
Being able to see in the dark is key. Batteries tend to be heavy and get used up but AA/AAA are light and small. Also, with solar, you can use rechargeable lights.
Know what the emergency broadcast stations are. Have a hand crank radio/flashlight combo.
Power will be out. ATMs won’t work Store computer systems will have crashed. It will be a cash environment for a while.
Know how to turn off the water coming into the house. How to turn off the power. Where the safe spots in the house are. Where the family IRP- immediate rally point— outside the house where all will gather is. Who the out of area emergency point of contact is for the family.
I constantly update free, downloadable slideshows on my web site for preparation and survival and other topics. FREE SLIDESHOWS