Checklist: What to do before heavy rains and flooding

An unidentified Town of Christiansburg worker attempts to unclog a street drain Tuesday at the intersection of Montgomery and Brown streets in Cambria. After more than 4 inches of rain fell Tuesday, another big rainstorm is forecast to hit the area Friday. (Photo by Larry Middleton)
An unidentified Town of Christiansburg worker attempts to unclog a street drain Tuesday at the intersection of Montgomery and Brown streets in Cambria. After more than 4 inches of rain fell Tuesday, another big rainstorm is forecast to hit the area Friday. (Photo by Larry Middleton)

The National Weather Service is forecasting a low-pressure weather system will develop over the New River Valley, causing significant amounts of rain beginning Friday and continuing through Sunday.

In addition to the heavy rain forecast, Hurricane Joaqin may make landfall in the Mid-Atlantic and contribute to rainfall totals, bringing high winds as well, on Sunday and Monday.

Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground. Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area.

Weather forecasters typically use these terms when floods are predicted:

  • Flood watch or flash flood watch: Flooding or flash flooding is possible in the mentioned area.
  • Flood warning or flash flood warning: Flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in the mentioned area.

The most important precaution is to make sure a homeowner has flood insurance. After getting flood insurance, there are several things you can do to minimize losses in your home and ensure your family’s safety.

 

Safeguard possessions

Create a personal flood file containing information about all possessions and keep it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or waterproof container. This file should have:

  • A copy of insurance policies with agents contact information.
  • A household inventory: For insurance purposes, be sure to keep a written and visual (i.e., videotaped or photographed) record of all major household items and valuables, even those stored in basements, attics or garages. Create files that include serial numbers and store receipts for major appliances and electronics. Have jewelry and artwork appraised. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims. For more information visit www.knowyourstuff.org.
  • Copies of all other critical documents, including finance records or receipts of major purchases.

 

Prepare the house

  • First make sure the sump pump is working and then install a battery-operated backup, in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • Raise your electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home’s projected flood elevation.
  • Place the furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
  • Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.

 

Develop a family emergency plan

  • Create a safety kit with drinking water, canned food, first aid, blankets, a radio and a flashlight.
  • Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone and teach your children how to dial 911.
  • Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Know safe routes from home, work, and school that are on higher ground.
  • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be your emergency family contact.
  • Have a plan to protect your pets.

 

During a flood

Here’s how to stay safe during a flood:

  •     If flooding occurs, go to higher ground and avoid areas subject to flooding.
  •     Do not attempt to walk across flowing streams or drive through flooded roadways.
  •     If water rises in your home before evacuating, go to the top floor, attic or roof.
  •     Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
  •     Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.
  •     If a person comest in contact with floodwaters, wash hands with soap and disinfected water.

 

– American Red Cross and FEMA

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