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  • What Winnie the Pooh Teaches Us About Flash Floods

    When I was young, I would constantly watch Winnie the Pooh. On one particular show, the 100 Acre Woods received a downpour of rain. What followed was probably the worst flash flood the good folks of the 100 Acre Wood had ever experienced. The lyrics that accompany the images of the flood still haunt me to this day:

    Winnie the Pooh

     

    “The rain rain rain came down down down

    in rushing riving riv’lets,

    ‘Till the river crept out of its bed

    and crept right into Piglet’s!”

     

     

    Poor Piglet. The flood came in so fast he was carried out of his home stranded on a floating chair!

    Can you imagine being caught in a flood like that? I always laughed as Piglet was washed down stream (because I’m heartless like that), but in reality, flash floods happen anytime, anywhere. For Pooh and Piglet, they were caught unawares, still asleep, as the water came rushing into their home.

    For me? Well, I was at home, too, just about to leave for the football game.

    Flash flood to a house This is pretty much what it felt like.

    Although I’m not a huge football fan (rugby all the way!), I was excited we were playing a good, competitive team. The whole city was abuzz with excitement, so I thought I’d join them in their revelry. My will to venture out was dampened, however, when I opened the front door to head out to the game on my bicycle. Oh bother. I stood there, slack-jawed, astounded at how hard the rain was falling. After a brief pause I shut the door. There was no way I was biking in that weather. No matter…the football game was delayed two hours because of the downpour.

    Unfortunately, I lived in a first-floor apartment and, like poor piglet’s, the riv’lets rose fast around us. They seeped in through the walls and lower windows, and formed a small lake outside the front door. It was a mess. Lucky for us, our apartment sat on top of a hill, so it could have been a lot worse.

    For everyone living downhill, it was a lot worse. The streets turned into rivers and lakes, and basements and cars were flooded. There were a bunch of college students who made the best of things, pulling each other behind high-lifted Jeeps on wakeboards through flooded parking lots (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!).

    In the couple of years since my football-day flood, I have come to realize that such downpours and the torrents that follow are a more than once in a lifetime experience for millions. For example, did you know that in one 15-year instance, Texans weathered some 4,722 flash floods? That’s pretty close to one flash flood every day. Luckily Texas is kind of a big state, so most of these deluges were scattered far and wide. I emphasize most; several Texas communities are “flood-prone.” If they experience what I did more than once, I think I would pack-up and move before the next flood came.

    Flooded Kashmir - CTV News CTV News

    In many regions of the world, such destruction is almost commonplace. Just last week, three days of heavy rain caused massive flooding in the Kashmir Valley of Pakistan and India. This was just six months after a previous huge flood which killed over 600 people. Once again, thousands are homeless as homes were washed away. Landslides took out roads, and highways were blocked for miles. Fortunately, officials say the situation is under control. For now.

    How might it have been different for Pooh and Piglet if they had known they were at risk? Maybe Piglet wouldn’t have been caught sleeping. Maybe Pooh would have been able to save more of his precious honey pots. How would my roommates and I have defended ourselves from the rising waters had we an understanding of what was happening around us. How do folks from Odessa, Texas to Odisha, India ride-out storm after storm, year after year.

    Although flash floods can happen without much warning, knowing the areas and causes can help you prepare yourselves (and your home).

     

    Know the Signs

    Flash floods tend to occur in dry, low-lying areas. This includes areas near rivers, dry lake beds, and basins. But even if you live in a higher area, you can still be affected. Roads, parking lots, curbs and gutters, they all collect and channel water, sometimes into first-floor hilltop apartments (remember, I was living on a hill and still got flooded).

    flooded football pitch. canon 5D Saturated soil

    The condition of the surrounding soil can be an indicator if your areas will flood or not. If you live in a very dry area that doesn’t receive much rainfall, the ground becomes as hard and impenetrable as concrete. When it does rain hard, the ground has trouble soaking it up, leaving it to gather and flow to the areas of least resistance – which for some reason almost always means your house. On the other end of the spectrum, if your soil has been receiving a lot of moisture, it can be already saturated, leaving no room for any more water to soak in. Once the soil is saturated, watch out for flooding!

    So how can you prepare for a flash flood? Well, as the good men of G.I. Joe say, “Knowing is half the battle.” Be aware of the risks involved in the area you live in. Do you live in a dry climate? Are you near a river, or at the bottom of a hill? If you know your risks, you will be better able to prepare when the rains come down and the floods come up.

    But enough about me! How have you prepared for flash flooding? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow preppers? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Insight, Planning Tagged With: know the signs, Flash flood

  • Prepare to Prepare

    We talk a lot on this blog about current events, disasters in progress or recent emergencies. While world events serve to remind us of the importance of proper preparation, by the time catastrophe strikes, it’s too late to prepare. So, assuming you’re not under six feet of snow or facing an oncoming tidal wave at this precise moment, what can you do today to begin prepping for an emergency?

     

    In answer to that question, here are some key initial steps. Or, as we like to call it…

     

    Preparing to prepare.

     

    Time to PlanDepending on where we live and time of year, we all have specific natural disasters that could potentially affect us. And while I’d need to prep a little differently for a flood than you might for an earthquake, there is a common set of first priorities. According to experts, those first priorities boil down to 1) having a kit, 2) making a plan, and 3) informing yourself.

     

    Have a kit. No matter whether you’re cut off by a mudslide or a blizzard has taken out the power, you’re going to need to eat, drink, and stay warm. A basic stash of supplies for the whole family will get you through those crucial first 72 hours. Office organizations like FEMA, the Red Cross, Ready.gov, and even the CDC offer helpful checklists of what to include in your emergency kit, but all of them include these basics:

    Emergency Kit

    • A three-day supply of water, figuring one gallon of water per person per day
    • Three days’ worth of food for the whole family
    • First aid supplies
    • Flashlights and batteries
    • Knife, can opener, wrench, or other multifunction tool
    • Extra clothing and shoes
    • Toiletries
    • Medications
    • Infant or pet needs
    • Blankets
    • Cash
    • Important documents

     

    Ideally, every member of the family should have their own pack, and packs should be stored somewhere easily accessible. We like the idea of working on these together and keeping a checklist like this one out where kids can check items off as you acquire them.

     

    Make a plan. There are all sorts of reasons your family may have to evacuate. And as FEMA puts it on the introduction to their fantastic Basic Preparedness guide, “You plan only once, and are able to apply your plan to all types of hazards.” Begin preparations for bugging out by talking about possible scenarios. And remember, circumstances may require leaving your house or leaving your town! Prep for each eventuality by determining:

    Family Disaster Plan

    • The safest place inside your home to hunker down, as in the case of an earthquake or tornado
    • Best escape routes out of the house (have at least two!)
    • Two designated meeting points: somewhere close, but clear of your home; and an out-of-town location for larger-scale evacs
    • A communication strategy—who will call whom, by what point does everyone need to check in, and how will we reach each other if cell towers are down?

     

    We really like the specific emergency plan templates available at Ready.gov, or we’ve compiled a comprehensive Emergency and Evacuation Plan template you can fill in with your specific information and plan.

     

    Inform yourself. To be truthful, this is kind of a catch-all designation. The first two steps will see your family through the initial days of a serious disaster; after that, you’ll have to depend on your knowledge, skills, and ingenuity, which is why education is such a key ingredient to preparation. Pick any one of these areas to start, and build your repertoire of personal resources over time.

     

    • Know which natural disasters are likely in your area, and learn disaster-specific preparation.
    • Learn about your community’s notification systems and protocols for emergencies, including schools and hospitals.
    • Sign up for local or national text alerts.
    • Certify in CPR.
    • Learn how to use a fire extinguisher, shut off utilities, and prepare a home for severe weather.
    • Organize a neighborhood emergency response team.
    • Beef up your survival skills—building a fire, constructing a shelter, cooking outdoors, etc.

     

    FEMA’s guide, mentioned above, is a great, basic starting point. Another treasure trove of information is the Education tab on our website, which includes a searchable archive of all our blog posts.

     

    Remember, preparedness is less a state than it is a process. And, like any endeavor, the most important step is the first. Start today with these ideas, and build on your skills and resources as you progress. And don’t forget to keep us posted along the way—what are you doing today to prepare for tomorrow?

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Kits, Planning Tagged With: Prepare, Emergency plan

  • A Tale of Two Winters

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

    Boston's Snowiest Winter (WBZ-TV Retrieved from cbs Boston) Attribution: WBZ-TV

    That’s how this winter has felt for most of the country. High amounts of nothing in the West can make for happy commuters, and yet equally unhappy farmers and anyone else who enjoys drinking water. The East coast received a pounding in snow storms, and Boston has even broken its own record (congratulations!) for snowiest winter, accumulating 108.6 inches of snow as of Sunday evening. That’s over 9 feet of snow! Now, as spring starts to set in, each side of the country is experiencing the aftermath of their individualized winter.

    Each side looks longingly at the other, wishing for what the other has. If only they could arrange a switcheroo, with the West taking some much needed moisture from the overly-watered East, and the East taking some dry weather from the parched West. But alas. To borrow from Rudyard Kipling, "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet."

    Winter has definitely been a different story for each side of the country, and each story has its own villain and plot twists. The western drought is worse than ever as water levels are historically low, while in the East, spring flooding has become a huge problem with the Ohio River overstepping its banks, flooding areas in Cincinnati, as well as Kentucky and Indiana.

    As the drought drags on, water shortages will become more and more common. The clouds refuse to give a much-needed respite. Water tables are dropping, and farmers are in a pickle. And so are the rest of us…eventually. Food crops need water to grow, and so as the clouds remain petulant and refuse us their moisture, what will happen to food supplies? What will happen to the cost of groceries? Food tends to run short during food shortages (funny how that works). And of course, that’s when prices tend to rise.

    boston-snow (WBZ TV) Attribution: WBZ-TV

    On the other side of the country, melting snow and spring rain is causing floods, water washing over roads and flooding business. Ironically, one must ask, how does flooding affect your water supply? Impure flood waters can contaminate municipal supplies. Also, how do flood waters affect food supplies? The entire supply chain, from the farm to the highway, to the grocery store is interrupted. Assuming food finds its way to the store, and you are even able to there, you’ll likely find prices much higher when you arrive.

    It’s times like these when we can only hope we are prepared.

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the best time to prepare for today is yesterday. Or last week or last month. Basically, if we are constantly preparing for natural nuisances such as these, we won’t be in over our head when the floods rise or the droughts linger.

    Woman Looking In Empty Food CupboardsThese next few days could prove quite uncomfortable for those left with what’s in their cupboards. If you’re like many Americans and like to wait until the cupboards are completely bare before you do your shopping (after all, why go shopping if there’s no room to put the goods?), you could end up re-living your college days by only eating ramen noodles and Easy Mac. That’s one reason (among many) why it’s important to have food and water storage on hand. At a minimum, make sure you have at least 3-days’ worth of food and water stored.

    Instead of fording rivers to see what the stores have to offer, having your own food storage can really keep you afloat during these times. Starting a food storage may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start with a can here, a can there, and gradually build it up over time. Or, you could just dive in head first and take advantage of our year-supply offers by either getting it all in one go. We also has Prep As You Go plans, allowing you to gradually build up your storage over the course of a year, making it a much more affordable option.

    Droughts and floods may seem like polar opposites, but they can leave the same problems in their wake. Not being able to find food when you need it can be very scary. As we like to say around here, the best time to get prepared is yesterday. The second best time is now.

    How have you prepared for flooding? Droughts? What is the most important thing for you to do to get ready? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Food Storage Tagged With: Boston, drought, flood, Winter

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