As Texans know, the Lone Star State’s weather can turn in a moment’s notice.
But like the week in February where the state broke numerous low-temperature records as snow blanketed portions of the state, it’s easier to be prepared for a weather event than try and get supplies during one.
Floods are not uncommon in Texas. And a growing population of Texans combined with climate change equates to bigger flooding issues. Between 2010 and 2019, six of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. were in Texas, according to Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute and the Texas Water Resources Institute. Larger cities mean less land to soak up rainwater, leading to increased flood risk.
But do you know what to do before, during or after a flood?
Some things can be done to prepare for a possible flood long before the sky begins to darken. For instance, create a flood emergency kit. Families and individuals should have a general emergency supply kit ready for any time. That kit can include drinking water with one gallon of water per person, per day for at least 10 days; a 10 day supply of food, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, batteries, First Aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal sanitation, manual can opener for food, local maps, cell phone with a charger, inverter or solar charger. Items to consider according to the Red Cross also include cash, a multipurpose tool, copies of personal documents, emergency contact information, matches, extra clothing, duct tape, and scissors.
The Red Cross has an emergency app available for download to see alerts in one area, monitor places and people and let others know you’re safe in an emergency.
Now it’s looking like the extended forecast is calling for bad weather. First things first. Know the difference in the various warnings that may come across the TV, radio, or internet.
Watch: A flood/flash flood watch means a flood or flash flood is possible.
Warning: A flood/flash flood warning means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon and take immediate precautions.
Other suggestions from a Laredo Morning News article include reviewing your flood insurance and knowing the flood risk for your home. Take household inventory and store important documents. Stay alert by monitoring the local news and weather reports and sign up for emergency alerts. Have a communication plan ready in the event of a power outage. As the big weather event gets closer, elevate and anchor utilities, clear debris from gutters, and elevate or move furniture.
But that’s only if there is time. When a flood is imminent or occurring, the first priority should always be the physical safety of you, your loved ones, and your pets.
During a flood, remember that water levels and the rate the water is flowing can quickly change. The National Weather Service suggests:
• Stay informed: Listen to radio and television, including NOAA Weather Radio if possible. Check the Internet and social media for information and updates.
• Get to higher ground if in a flood-prone area or are camping in a low-lying area.
• Obey evacuation orders. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect utilities and appliances.
• Practice electrical safety: Don't go into a basement, or any room, if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged. If you see sparks or hear buzzing, crackling, snapping or popping noises - get out.
Don't walk through floodwaters. It only takes six inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point and call 911 if possible. Do not drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade.
Once the storm is over, only return home when authorities say it’s safe.
Wildlife, such as snakes, may have entered the home during the flood, so wear protective clothing during cleanup, according to Ready.gov. Immediately turn off the power, and have an electrician check the house’s electrical system before turning it back on again. Overall, try to avoid wading in floodwater, which can be contaminated and contain dangerous debris.
Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water. And remember that generators or other gasoline-powered machinery should only be used outdoors.
The CDC recommends following local guidance on whether water is safe to drink after a flood event. Throw away food that may have come into contact with flood or stormwater, and if weather permits, open windows and doors of the house to aid in the drying-out process.
Floods can have devastating effects. Being prepared can help ease some of the chaos.
Learn more about flood preparedness and response at TexasFlood.org.