Flooding is the nation's most frequent and most costly natural disaster.
According to the National Weather Service, there were at least 77 flood-related deaths in the United States last year; with 41 deaths in Texas, most attributed to the catastrophic floods of Hurricane Harvey. Ohio had no flood-related deaths in 2017, but did encounter heavy rain, flooding and flash flooding during the summer.
Flood waters can be extremely dangerous. The force of six inches of swiftly moving water can knock over an adult. It only takes 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most other vehicles, including SUVs and pickup trucks.
The best ways to protect yourself during severe storms and floods are to listen to weather reports for progression of storms. If it is during a flood, it is best to leave the area and seek shelter on higher ground. Never drive or walk through flooded roadways. "Turn Around. Don't Drown."
Flash flood waters move very quickly and can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and obliterate bridges. Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and generally are accompanied by a deadly cargo of debris. The best response to any sign of flash flooding is to move immediately and quickly to higher ground.
During a Flood Warning
If indoors, turn on a battery-powered radio or NOAA Weather Radio to get the latest emergency information. If your area is advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
If outdoors, climb to high ground and stay there. Avoid walking through any flood waters.
If you are driving and have come to a flooded area, turn around and go the other way. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to drive through flooded roadways.
Don't let children drink or put toys in flood waters. Don't allow your children to play or swim in flood waters. If your child shows any signs or symptoms of illness after being in flood waters such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, contact your physician as soon as possible. If you cannot make it to your physician, go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
If a person receives a cut, burn or puncture wound, make sure it does not come in contact with flood waters. Flood water may contain various bacteria, viruses and other infectious organisms that may cause disease. Flood water may also contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems. If you are concerned about an injury, check with your physician to see if a tetanus booster is necessary.
During an Evacuation
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters block your escape. Leave early enough to avoid being marooned by flooded roads.
Never attempt to drive or walk through flood waters. Water could be deeper than it appears and floodwater currents can be deceptive. Remember it takes less than two feet of water to carry away most vehicles.
Listen to Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages on the radio or television for evacuation instructions.
Follow recommended evacuation routes. Shortcuts may be blocked.
After a Flood
Before entering a flood-damaged building, check the foundation for cracks and inspect porch roofs and overhangs to be sure they are adequately supported. Ask a building inspector to check the house before you go inside.
Be alert for gas leaks. Do not strike a match or use open flame when entering a building unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area ventilated.
Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.
Mold is a likely problem in flooded homes. Mold has the potential to affect the health of all family members. It is important to remove all water and fix any leaks before cleaning.
Clean hard surfaces with a solution of bleach and water; make sure to ventilate the area when using chlorine bleach. Wear a filter mask and gloves to avoid contact with the mold. Let the bleach and water sit for 15 minutes and then dry the area thoroughly. Wet, porous materials, such as carpeting, wallboard, insulation, wallpaper and furniture should be discarded because they remain a source of mold growth.
Use fans and dehumidifiers to air and dry out the home. If the weather permits, open doors and windows.
Food that comes in contact with flood water can also pose a serious health risk. Health officials recommend throwing away any product if there is any doubt about its safety, including home-canned goods if the tops have been exposed to flooding.
Food in paper containers, cloth or cardboard packaging that has been exposed to flood water should also be discarded, along with soft drinks and condiments using capped containers.
Store-bought canned goods may be saved if they are disinfected prior to opening. Label the can with a waterproof marker, remove the paper label and wash the can thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Rinse well; after washing and rinsing, disinfect can by soaking it for five minutes in a chlorine solution using one tablespoon of bleach (labeled 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) for each gallon of cool water.
If you have a private well, run cold water for about 30 minutes to allow the well to recharge naturally. Do not save the water. Have the well disinfected and tested before drinking or using for cooking. If you must use tap water, boil it vigorously for at least one minute. If you cannot boil it, add 16 drops of bleach to each gallon of water. Mix thoroughly and allow to stand for 30 minutes. This method should be used only with water that is clean in appearance and free of odors.
For more information on floods or flood safety, contact your state or local emergency management agency; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources; the National Weather Service; or your local American Red Cross chapter.