Flash flood

  • What the Historic Flooding in Texas Teaches About Flood Preparation

    The National Weather Service predicted a high probability of a cool, wet winter for the southeast United States. In Texas, so far, that prediction has been bang on.

    Over Halloween weekend, a storm battered the south-central and southeast parts of the state, leaving six dead. The weekend before, on October 25, remnants of Hurricane Patricia exacerbated flooding from a storm system that had already dropped more than a foot of rain in parts of Texas.

    Texas via Fox2Now

    Plano, Texas, saw almost 9 ½ inches fall in October – more than twice its typical rainfall. Kelli Robertson, of Plano, saw water level with the top of the gutters in the street during the October 23-25 storm.

    Her family lost power for twelve hours and cleaned up water pouring in through a leaky roof. They dressed by flashlight and traveled through sodden streets to send their children to school – where the children faced intermittent power outages throughout the day.

    “[Her husband] Paul was like, ‘Yeah, I’m thinking about emergency preparation,’” she said.

    Here are some things they were thinking about.

    Several months before, hail damaged many homes in Robertson’s neighborhood. After that storm, many of their neighbors replaced their roofs. Though her home had minor damage, Kelli’s family couldn’t get it fixed.

    During the October 24 storm, her husband Paul noticed water pouring through the return air vent in their home’s ceiling. He ran up to the attic and saw water.

    “It was running down the inside of the wood, down vents into the house. It was never ending,” Kelli said.

    They put buckets under the leaks and mopped the water up with towels.

    Now they’re trying to figure out how to fix the roof. They have insurance, and homeowner’s policies usually cover storm damage if it comes from above. However, they have a high deductible.

    “We can’t do a new roof right now. No way,” she said.

    This year, they already had to spend several thousand dollars fixing a water main that broke and flooded their yard. Their insurance policy only covered the cost of digging up the leaky pipe; not repairs. Since the digging cost was less than their deductible, Kelli’s family ended up paying for the whole job.

    “I’ve learned a lot more about insurance lately,” she said.

    Flooded House via Telegraph - Texas via The Telegraph

    Federal emergency management officials recommend homeowners buy flood insurance in addition to regular homeowner’s insurance. It’s available through local agents but is backed by the National Flood Insurance Program, a federal program. For an average of $600 per year, based on standardized rates determined by an area’s flood risks, homeowners get up to $350,000 worth of coverage for their home and possessions. When buying insurance, be aware of deductibles and caps on compensation. The flood insurance program only covers a home’s structure up to $250,000.

    In addition to an interior rain storm, Kelli’s family faced a power outage for 12 hours.

    “We had no power. We had cell phones, but we didn’t know how long we’d need them to last. We had food, but we couldn’t cook on the stove,” Kelli said.

    However, others outside their neighborhood had power or quickly regained it. Their children all had school that day.

    “The school sent us an e-mail: ‘Your power may be out but we still have school, so come in.’” she said. “We had to dress by flashlight.”

    At her son’s middle school, power was intermittent, so he spent much of the day in the school cafeteria. She said a neighbor a few streets away had power back early in the day. She and Paul decided to go out to lunch that day. Their preferred taco restaurant had no power. But another did.

    “You’d go … to a shopping center and it was like a different city,” she said.

    Being prepared for a power outage is a good idea. Fortunately, we’ve got alternative power sources to help see you through the dark times.

    Weather.com also recommends people keep coolers and ice on hand to protect food. Keeping food surrounded by ice keeps it cold for longer.

    The Food and Drug Administration says to throw away any perishable food left at more than 40 degrees for more than two hours. Weather.com also recommends a digital, quick-response food thermometer to check the temperature of food before eating or cooking it.

    Kelli has called a roof repair company and is waiting for a reply. But there’s no letup in the weather ahead. Plano is under another flash flood watch.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Texas

  • Flash Flooding Washes Away Hikers [Video]

    "We turned and we saw the water flowing up like a large wave.”

    Flash FloodingThat’s according to Renee Lusano when she and her friends nearly became the victims of a flash flood on Commando Trail in East Maui recently. Her friend Sean was washed off the top of the waterfall, and the whole party had to quickly climb to higher ground. The water rose quickly, and miraculously nobody died. The group even had a drone camera and captured the entire ordeal (see video at the end of this article).

    One moment everyone was having a good time. The next they were fighting for their lives.

    Flash floods are no joke, and as the name implies, they can happen in a flash. That’s why it’s important to know the dangers wherever you are, and to pay heed to warnings. Maui had received a lot of rain just before this incident due to nearby hurricanes, and a flood advisory had been issued. The group continued with their hike, however.

    You, too, could face a flash flood, no matter where you live, hike, camp, or vacation. One of the best ways to avoid being caught in one is to know your surroundings, weather conditions, and check for local advisories.

    Saddle Dome Flash Flooding Calgary's Saddledome flooded when the Bow River flooded its banks.

    When it comes to weather, the most common cause of flash flooding is intense rainfall. Depending on the condition of the ground, this water could start flooding almost instantly. Soft ground like sand and good soil can hold more water, whereas clay and wilt don’t absorb water as well, so it starts flooding much faster after the rain starts falling.

    The depth of bedrock also plays a factor in flash flooding. The closer the bedrock is to the surface, the faster it will flood. This is because there’s just not as much room for water to soak in to the soil as there would be if the bedrock were much further down. More soil, more saturation, less flooding.

    Urban Flash FloodingUrbanization and fire are also huge factors in flash flooding. Obviously, water can’t permeate concrete very well, so the more roads and sidewalks the water reaches, the greater chance of a flood. Wildfires can change the way the soil takes in water, essentially making it hydrophobic. This means that the ground repels water rather than taking it in. So in places like California or Washington that have had some extended wildfires, there could be some even greater risks for flash flooding (except maybe in California, because the rain doesn’t seem to go there much, anyway).

    With colder weather on approach, hard and freezing ground can also pose a problem for saturation. If the ground starts freezing and then receives a lot of rain or fast-melting snow, be prepared for some flash flooding.

    To sum up, heavy rainfall and its inability to soak into the ground can cause massive flooding in an instant. Check out your surroundings where you live and plan accordingly.


    And in case you forgot, here’s the video of the hikers’ near-death experience with a flash flood:



    What risks of flash flooding do you see near your home?


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Flash Flooding

  • 5 Types of Floods You Should Prepare For

    The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word “flood” is water in places where it shouldn’t be. While that explanation is pretty accurate, there’s a lot more to floods than just that. For example, did you know there are five types of floods? It’s true, and they are something you should be aware of so you can know your risks. Some of these types of floods may be more applicable to some regions than others, but there is at least one type that can affect you. So here they are, the five types of floods, courtesy of our the good folks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory.


    River Flood

    Types of Flood - River FloodJust like it sounds, a river flood occurs when a river overflows its banks. This happens for a few different reasons. One, lots of rain. Whether it’s tropical systems (tropical storms, hurricanes, etc.) reaching land and dumping all its contents relatively quickly, or prolonged rain from thunderstorms in the same area, this kind of precipitation can cause rivers to flood. Melting snow can cause rivers to rise quickly, too. Remember all the snow that came for a visit last winter? Well, when it melted, rivers rose well above their banks. The Ohio River rose nearly six feet over its flood stage! So if you live in an area near a river, be prepared for a river flood.


    Coastal Flood

    Types of Flood - Coastal FloodIf you live near the coast, be ready for a coastal flood. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), these are “caused by higher than average high tide and worsened by heavy rainfall and onshore winds.” Lower elevation also plays a factor in coastal water flooding up on land.


    Storm Surge

    Types of Floods - Storm Surge - NOAA Courtesy of NOAA

    Another type of flood found on the coast, storm surges are caused by severe storms. Strong winds, large waves, and low atmospheric pressure all help the tide rise abnormally high. Combined with high tide, storm surges can raise water level by 30 feet or more. As you might imagine, having a surge of ocean water come crashing over land can cause some wide-spread flooding. Storm surges are one of the biggest threats to life and property during hurricanes. According to the NSSL, “at least 1500 persons lost their lives during Katrina and many of those deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge.”


    Inland Flood

    Types of Floods - Inland FloodThere are a few different scenarios in which inland flooding can occur, although the end result is pretty similar. Steady rain over several days or intense precipitation in a short period of time can both cause the soil to become so saturated with moisture that it can’t hold anymore. When that happens…you’ve got yourself inland flooding. Rivers overflowing is another cause of inland flooding. But no matter what the cause, virtually any area is susceptible to this kind of flood. You might not think it, but even homes built on hills can be effected by inland flooding (trust me, I know from experience).


    Flash Flood

    Types of Floods - Flash FloodHeavy rainfall in a very short amount of time, the NSSL describes flash floods as usually taking place after less than six hours of rain, and “are usually characterized by raging torrents…that rip through river beds, urban streets, or mountain canyons sweeping everything before them.” Even without heavy rainfall, flash floods can come rushing in unannounced. These surprise visits can occur due to a dam failure, or after water is suddenly released, such as the breaking up of an ice jam. Check out the following video to see an example of a flash flood. Notice how fast the water moves, and the objects it carries with it.


    No matter where you live, flooding is a threat you shouldn’t ignore. While some areas are more prone to flooding than others, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Make sure you know the flood risks in your area and what to do to prepare.

    For more information about floods (and other disasters), click the image below!


    Types of Floods - Disaster Page

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