February 8, 2013

Floods, flash floods can happen anytime, anywhere

Submitted by Whitfield County government

Editor's note: Last in a series on our website.

 

Each day during Severe Weather Awareness Week, being observed Feb. 4-8, focuses on a different type of threat faced by Georgians. The Whitfield County Emergency Management Agency is encouraging all residents to take a few minutes to learn about how to deal with each emergency situation by visiting the Ready Georgia website at www.ready.ga.gov. The emphasis for today, Feb. 8, is on flood safety.

Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters, except fire. Even before hurricane season officially began last year, nearly seven inches of rain fell in Thomas County on June 6. The deluge overwhelmed culverts and storm drains, flooded homes and closed several roads. Another flooding event occurred in August when 10 inches of rain in less than 24 hours left large parts of Tift County underwater.

Floods can be slow or fast rising but generally develop over a period of days. Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. They occur with little or no warning and can reach full peak in only a few minutes. Dam failures are potentially the worst flood events. When a dam fails, an enormous quantity of water suddenly rushes downstream, destroying anything in its path.

“Neighborhoods located in low-lying areas are especially at risk for flooding. Those near bodies of water or downstream from a dam are vulnerable, too," says Whitfield County Emergency Management Agency Director Claude Craig.

Here is some information to help you develop a plan and be ready to act before the possibility of a flood or flash flood threatens you or your family.

Know what to expect

• Know your area's flood risk -- if unsure, call your local emergency management agency office, planning and zoning department, or visit www.floodsmart.gov.

• If it has rained hard for several hours or rained steadily for several days, prepare for the possibility flooding.

• Closely monitor a local radio station, television or NOAA Weather Radio for flood information.

Reduce potential flood damage by:

• Avoiding building or buying a home in a floodplain.

• Raising your furnace, water heater and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded.

• Consulting a professional for further information about damage reduction measures that you can implement.

Floods can take several hours or days to develop

• A flood WATCH means a flood is possible in your area.

• A flood WARNING means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.

Flash floods can take only a few minutes or a few hours to develop

• A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in your area.

• A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon.

Prepare a family disaster plan

• Check to see if you have insurance that covers flooding. If not, get flood insurance immediately.

• Keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.

• Identify where you could go if told to evacuate. Choose several places -- a friend's home in another town, a motel or a shelter.

Assemble a disaster supplies kit containing:

• First aid kit and essential medications.

• Canned food and can opener.

• At  least three gallons of water per person.

• Protective clothing, rainwear and bedding or sleeping bags.

• Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.

• Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.

• Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn them back on.)

When a flood WATCH is issued

• Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.

• Fill your car's gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued.

When a flood WARNING is issued

• Closely monitor NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or television for the latest weather forecasts.

• If told to evacuate, do so immediately!

When a flash flood WATCH is issued

• Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice.

When a flash flood WARNING is issued

• Or if you think flooding has begun, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!

• Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains. Do not drive through or around barricades ... they are there for your safety.

• If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

To help families prepare, Ready Georgia, a statewide emergency preparedness campaign established by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA), offers the tools needed to make an emergency supply kit, develop a communications plan and stay informed about potential threats.

Visitors to Ready Georgia’s website, www.ready.ga.gov, can create an online profile to receive a tailored plan for the entire family that includes the specific amount of supplies to put in their household Ready kits. They can also find local emergency contact information, learn about Georgia-specific disasters and read preparedness testimonials from local sports stars.

Employers can use the Ready Your Business guide to create custom contingency plans and children can visit the ReadyKids page for age-appropriate information, videos and games. For preparedness on the go, families can download Ready Georgia’s free mobile app to learn how to prepare for emergencies, create family communications plans and more.

For more information, contact Whitfield County EMA at (706) 259-3730 or visit these websites: www.ready.ga.gov, www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/ or www.gema.ga.gov.