Hurricane Florence was headed toward North Carolina, and storms were predicted to head on up to West Virginia. The storm’s trajectory just changed, however, and it looks like West Virginia might be spared another drenching in the immediate future. But the path already changed once; it could change again.
Either way, it’s always good to be prepared. And because it’s National Preparedness Month, of course we’re going to offer advice on how to deal with flooding.
Ready.gov, the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s website devoted to the topic, has a very thorough section on flooding.
Here at Monongalia County Health Department’s Threat Preparedness program, one of the first things we like to emphasize is the danger of driving through water on the road. You might be surprised at how little water is required to sweep a vehicle into a rushing, overflowing creek or stream. According to Ready.gov, just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
As we like to say, “Turn around, don’t drown.” For an illustration, check out a video by the National Weather Service.
Through realistic animation, you can see firsthand what it might be like to suddenly lose control of your car as it heads down a stream, crashing into branches until a large tree halts its course and causes it to start sinking. You should also stay off bridges that span fast-moving water.
It’s a worst-case scenario, but why take a chance? As MCHD Threat Prep Directed Jamie Moore noted, this type of event accounts for the highest percentage of flood deaths in West Virginia.
And if you do get caught in your car in rushing water, stay in your vehicle for as long as you can. If water is rising inside the car, seek refuge on the roof of the vehicle.
Ready.gov suggests other ways to prepare yourself for flooding. First, know the types of flood risk that typically happen in your community. You can look up flood maps on FEMA’s website.
Sign up for a warning system, including the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. And learn and practice evacuation routes. This is especially vital if you live in an area prone to flooding. You might have to make a judgment call on whether to evacuate; other times, it might be a mandated order.
It’s also good to know when to shelter in place. In those instances, you’ll want to have a variety of items in your household, including flashlights, batteries, charging devices and plenty of food and water for your household for a few days. Also keep everyone’s medications in mind, as well as food and water for pets.
FEMA also suggests getting flood insurance. If you live in an area that floods, you know how important that financial aid is. And if you don’t, it’s an inexpensive way to have peace of mind in case something does happen.
When you do get flood insurance, or if you have other important documents, keep them in a waterproof container. Also create password-protected digital copies.
Finally, look around your home. Could you move valuables to higher levels? Would a sump pump with a battery be useful in your basement? How about drains and gutters. Are they cleaned out?
If your home does flood, there are also tips to follow to deal with cleanup. If you have evacuated, only return home when it’s safe. Snakes and other animals may be in your house, so wear heavy boots and gloves. Beware of the risk of electrocution. Don’t touch electrical equipment if it’s wet or if you are standing in water. If it’s safe to do so, turn off the power to avoid electric shock. And use a generator only outside and away from windows.
Another preventative measure is to make sure you are up-to-date on your tetanus shot, which you should get once every 10 years. You can get a Tdap vaccine, which also protects against diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough, from your health provider or through MCHD Clinical Services. Call 304-598-5119 to make an appointment.
Hopefully, this will be TMI—or too much information—for this weekend’s weather. But it’s always good to review your situation and make sure you are prepared in case something does happen.