Provided by Prince William Fire & Rescue
March is National Flood Safety Awareness Month. As the weather becomes warmer, we can expect rainfall as a part of the change in seasons. Periodically, rainfall may become extremely heavy, causing streams and rivers to overflow, flooding streets, communities and other low lying areas. According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), flooding is one of the major threats facing Virginia annually. More deaths occur from flooding, states the National Weather Service (NWS), than any other severe weather-related hazard. Of all flood fatalities, more than 50% are vehicle-related as a result of people trapped in vehicles swept downstream when attempting to drive through the flooded area. The second highest percentage of flood-related deaths are individuals walking into flood waters. Although preventable, in the majority of these cases, individuals underestimate the force and power of water and therefore drive or walk into harm’s way.
Flooding can happen after days of prolonged and intense rainfall; whereas a flash flood can occur within hours of a rain event due to rapidly rising water along a stream or in a low-lying area. Flash floods can move boulders and other large objects, uprooting trees and destroying buildings and bridges. These floods occur suddenly and often without warning; most often catching people off-guard and unprepared. When you hear the word “flash,” think “urgent” and act accordingly.
Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin McGee advises residents to be aware as to what you can do to save life and property by following these simple flood safety tips should a flood occur:
- Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio to receive warnings from the National Weather Service, or monitor your favorite news source. Know the difference in the terms flood/flash watch and flood/flash warning.
- Leave areas subject to flooding and seek higher ground.
- Avoid underpasses, underground parking garages, and basements during or after heavy rains.
- Turn Around, Don’t Drown (TADD)
- DO NOT attempt to cross flowing streams.
- NEVER drive through flooded roadways – flood water may have damaged or washed away the road and six inches of water can stall a vehicle.
- If your vehicle stalls, get out and move to higher ground
- If you come to water that’s above your ankles, stop and turn around. You can be swept off your feet by as little as six inches of rushing water.
- Develop a family evacuation plan that includes pets. Make sure everyone knows what to do in case of flooding.
- Keep all family cars fueled. Stock bottled water, non-perishable food, and a first aid kit.
For more information on flood safety, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management vaemergency.gov/prepare-recover/threat/floods/; Ready.gov ready.gov/floods, and American Red Cross redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-ofemergencies/flood.
For information on flooding in Virginia, visit floodsafety.noaa.gov/states/va-flood.shtml.
If you live in an area prone to flooding, consider getting flood insurance for your property visit the National Flood Insurance Program fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.