Do you know how to prepare for flooding?

We all know our state's got a mind of its own when it comes to weather – sunshine one minute, surprise storms the next.

Being prepared for whatever wacky (and sometimes dangerous) weather pops up is much easier (and less stressful!) than trying to find supplies when the skies open up.

Flooding is a fact of life in Texas. Six out of the 10 fastest-growing counties in the U.S. from 2022 to 2023 are in Texas, according to recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. More people means less space for rainwater to soak in, which can lead to more flooding.

While floods can be a real nuisance, they can also be dangerous. Floodwaters can move fast, be surprisingly deep, cause drownings, cause damage to homes, knock out power lines, carry trash and pollute our water. That's why it's important to stay safe and informed.

First things first:

  • A flood/flash flood WATCH means a flood or flash flood is possible.
  • A flood/flash flood WARNING means flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon.

If you're under a flood/flash flood warning, take immediate precautions.

According to Ready.gov, if you're under a flood warning:

  • Find safe shelter right away.
  • Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn Around, Don't Drown!
  • Remember, just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off bridges over fast-moving water.
  • Depending on the type of flooding:
    • Evacuate if told to do so.
    • Move to higher ground or a higher floor.
    • Stay where you are.

Next, it's helpful to know your flood risk.

Property located in a 500-year floodplain has a 0.2 percent chance of being flooded in a given year, while those in a 100-year floodplain have a 1 percent chance. If the property is located in a 10-year floodplain, the likelihood of a flood occurring in that area is 10 percent annually.

Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Map Service Center and search for your address. Most homeowners' insurance doesn't cover flood damage, and if you live in an area with low or moderate flood risk, you are 5 times more likely to experience flood than a fire in your home over the next 30 years, according to FEMA. Flood maps change regularly, so it's important to keep up with them.

You can also reach out to your local office of emergency management for advice. Each Texas county has a floodplain manager, which is often designated as the county engineer's office. Many city engineering offices also deal with floodplain concerns.

So what can you do to prepare?

Ready.gov has suggestions. Before the clouds even get dark:

Start with a plan for your household (don't forget your pets), and make sure everyone knows it.

Learn and practice evacuation routes and shelter plans. Where would your family meet if they were separated and needed to evacuate?

Do you have an emergency kit? How long has it been since it was updated? If you don't have one, gather supplies, including non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and water for several days, in case you must leave immediately or if services are cut off in your area.

If it is flooding, there are ways to stay safe. According to Ready.gov:

  • Evacuate immediately, if told to evacuate. Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you are sick and need medical attention. Wait for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Listen to the Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions regarding flooding.
  • Do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don't Drown!
  • Stay inside your car if it is trapped in rapidly moving water. Get on the roof if water is rising inside the car.
  • Get to the highest level if trapped in a building. Only get on the roof if necessary and once there, signal for help. Do not climb into a closed attic to avoid getting trapped by rising floodwater.

If your home was flooded, if possible, dry your home and everything in it as quickly as you can within 24-48 hours. If you can't return to dry your home within 24-48 hours, assume there is mold growth that will need to be addressed and cleaned, according to the Red Cross.

The CDC recommends following local guidance on whether water is safe to drink after a flood event. Throw away food that may have encountered flood or stormwater.

Wildlife, such as snakes, may have entered the home, 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.

There are other precautions to take after a flood as well, according to Ready.gov:

  • Pay attention to authorities for information and instructions. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Avoid driving except in emergencies.
  • Wear heavy work gloves, protective clothing and boots during clean up and use appropriate face coverings or masks if cleaning mold or other debris.
  • People with asthma and other lung conditions and/or immune suppression should not enter buildings with indoor water leaks or mold growth that can be seen or smelled.
  • Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery only outdoors and away from windows.

And most importantly, take care of yourself. It's normal to have a lot of stress or anxiety over the situation. Eat healthy food, get enough sleep, and if you need to talk to someone, call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.

Learn more about flood preparedness and response at www.TexasFlood.org