Floods are one of the deadliest types of natural disasters. To help you mentally prepare, we’ve answered some of the most common flood-related questions.
What are the causes of floods?
Floods can be caused by both natural and manmade events. Such events include:
- Extreme rainfall: Too much rain at once can cause rapid flooding.
- Consistent rainfall over a long period of time: At some point, the ground will reach its max capacity to absorb water so it will run over.
- Rapidly melting snow and ice: Warm temperatures or rain after snow can cause the snow to melt much faster than the rivers, lakes, and other water reservoirs are able to handle. Ice jams are also possible.
- Overflowing waterways: Too much surface runoff or debris that has blocked a water passage can cause rivers and streams to overflow.
- Broken levees and dams: Old or damaged dams and levees can give way when the water pressure becomes too much. Large companies and farmers who manipulate the terrain within their property may also be at fault for improper drainage that can lead to flooding.
- The rapid rise of water levels: A large landslide that occurs near a body of water can create a ripple effect and flood the nearby communities. An earthquake that occurs underwater can create a tsunami.
- Storm surge: Ocean waves from hurricanes and tsunamis can cause flooding in coastal regions.
- City drainage systems at full capacity.
- Certain geographical areas are prone to floods, such as low-lying and coastal regions, and cities near waterways or channels with steep mountainsides.
What are the effects of floods?
Flooding can have catastrophic effects, some of which include:
- Loss of life: The most devastating effect that floods can have is the loss of a loved one.
- Property damage or loss: If floodwaters enter your home, you risk having to throw away any furniture that came into contact with the water, as well as remove the portion of the wall, insulation, carpet, and any electrical wires that got wet.
- Health implications: Touching objects that have come into contact with contaminated floodwater can cause health problems. Also, not ventilating your home properly can cause mold to grow in the walls and in the basement.
- Economic impact: Homeowners may have to pay a lot of money for repairs, especially if the home is not insured, and having to find alternative housing is costly. The affected community or region will also face economic challenges. The government will have to invest in the repair of damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges and some local businesses may have to close temporarily, not only impacting the business owner but also the employees.
- Psychological trauma: PTSD and anxiety are common after natural disasters. If you or a loved one are experiencing trauma after a flood, contact the disaster hotline for help. Check out the crisis hotline here.
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Who monitors flood activity?
The US Geological Survey is responsible for monitoring much of the data that is used as variables in determining the possibility of floods. This real-time data include the amount of rainfall, the rising level of rivers and waterways, how much more moisture is expected, and understanding the local soil types and topography. The data drafted by the USGS is then sent to the National Weather Service who then evaluates it and issues flood watches and warnings if needed.
What are some of the warning signs of a coming flood?
The most obvious sign should arrive on your cell phone or local news station. Flood and flash flood warnings are dispersed quickly over the media.
Physical signs that can hint towards the development of floods is excessive amounts of rain, so much so that the ground becomes saturated and no longer able to absorb the water.
Tropical storms, hurricanes, storm surges, and tornadoes are also known for causing flooding because they bring a lot of rain in a short amount of time. Stay alert with the weather conditions.
What time of year are floods most common?
Floods can happen at any time of year. In the United States, they’re most common between the spring and fall, because there are more thunderstorms and hurricanes during those seasons. In tropical regions, they’re more common during the rainy season.
How can you survive a flood?
Becoming prepared for a flood ahead of time is important so that if one occurs, you’ll have practiced the safety procedures to help you stay safe.
If there’s a flood warning in your community, you should place flood barriers around the vulnerable entrances to your home and unplug all electronics from the walls. If floodwaters are rising, you should get to higher ground immediately and bring your pets with you. After the flood, stay away from flooded areas and do not go near downed power lines.
For more information on flood preparedness and safety, check out our complete guide here. Be sure to print the checklist at the end of the article and keep it with your emergency kit for future reference.
Do sandbags keep water out?
If placed properly, sandbags should effectively divert water away from your property. Keep in mind that in serious flood disasters or flash flooding, sandbags are not guaranteed to work. They are helpful indeed but they can only withstand a certain amount of water before they become overpowered themselves.
Do sandbags stop the water?
They don’t necessarily stop the water from flowing but they divert it so that it doesn’t enter vulnerable places in your home, such as a garage door. Don’t expect sandbags to seal your home entirely from the water, but they do reduce the level of the potential damage a considerable amount.
How long does it take for floodwaters to recede?
There’s no way to accurately predict how long it will take for the water in a flooded area to recede. This is because many factors are involved.
For one, cities have different methods of drainage which could speed up or slow down the process. Also, soil types vary per region and their water absorption rates do too. Finally, you have to consider how high the floodwaters have reached. A few inches of water will take a lot less time to recede than a few feet.
Can I drink tap water after a flood?
No! After a flood, it’s likely that the city’s water supply has become contaminated. Sewage water, microorganisms, and debris will be plaguing your water supply until the waters recede and the city is able to clean out the tanks and wells. This is why we recommend getting a Lifestraw, or another water purification method, to ensure a constant supply of safe drinking water.
For more information on flood mitigation and safety, check out our guide here. We’ve provided a printable checklist for you as well.
Do you have any flood questions that weren’t answered? If so, leave them in the comments below!
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