2022 has started on a dry foot, with drought conditions spread across Texas. However, the spring months usually bring rain to the Lone Star state. Flooding can occur even during drought conditions, taking a damaging toll on lives and property.
When it comes to flood safety, those living in flood-prone areas must be aware of potential dangers and take precautions. Whether you are at home, on the road, or visiting a Texas lake or river, diligence and planning can make a huge difference.
Officials have designated March 14- 18) as National Flood Safety Preparedness and Awareness Week. While much of Texas has seen drier conditions this winter, it only takes one quick, heavy downpour to spawn a dangerous flash flood. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency, it's estimated that 99% of counties in the United States were impacted by a flooding event between 1996 and 2019.
So, what do you do when the rain starts pouring down?
- Knowing your risk. If you need to determine if you are in a flood-prone area, click here.
- Make an emergency communication plan for your family.
- Build or restock an emergency kit with items such as a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
- Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to get to higher ground or evacuate.
- The best way to protect your home from flood damage is to purchase flood insurance today (if you don't already have it.)
- To help with flood insurance claims, take photos and videos of all major household items and keep the documentation in a safe place.
- Keep important documents, such as birth certificates and medical records, in a watertight safety deposit box.
WHEN IT STARTS TO RAIN HEAVILY
- First, know the difference between a flood watch and a warning.
- Flood Watch: Be Prepared. A flood watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding.
- Flood Warning: Take Action. A flood warning is issued when flooding is imminent or already taking place.
- Knowing the current status of your area is an excellent place to start. If you are located within the Brazos River basin, the BRA provides links to USGS Gaging Stations that show gage height and streamflow readings throughout the Brazos River basin. You can visit the webpage here.
- When you click the link, you will see a map of the Brazos River basin. You can zoom in to your area of interest to view the streamflow for specific areas. If you want information about flooding stages and gage height, you will need to click the green circle for your gage of interest. Click the icon with the two speech bubbles and then click "West Gulf River Forecast Center." The graph will show a timeline with dates across the bottom and stage height on the left. The solid blue line shows the actual measurement of the river's flow. The vertical line just left of the center shows the current time that this measurement was taken.
- If you are not within the Brazos River basin, click here for similar data for locations across Texas.
- Turn to your TV, radio, or the Internet for weather updates for your area and listen for any emergency instructions.
- Know where you can safely go if flooding occurs and plan on how to get there.
- If you have enough time, bring outdoor furniture inside and put essential indoor items at the highest elevation possible to help protect them from damage.
- Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.
- If authorities instruct you, turn off your gas or electricity at the main switch or valve. Doing this can help prevent fires or explosions.
DURING A FLOOD WARNING
- Immediately move to the highest ground safely possible if you are not there already and evacuate if directed. The physical safety of yourself and your loved ones is the highest priority.
- If you are out and about during a flood warning, always remember to "Turn Around, Don't Drown!" Driving or attempting to walk through floodwaters is dangerous—just two feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
- If you find your car surrounded by high water, abandon the car and seek high ground if the water is still. Stay on top of your car and await rescue.
- Do not park or camp along streams, rivers, or creeks during times of heavy rainfall.
For more information about flooding preparedness, click here.