The most common disaster in Texas is flooding. Most regions of the state are at risk. Flash flooding is also common, especially in areas where the terrain is steep and rocky. Flash floods are floods that happen very quickly. They can be very dangerous. Even in flat areas, flash flooding can occur during a heavy downpour.
Being Prepared for Floods
The first thing you need to do is assess your risks. Do you live in a flood plain or a low-lying area? Are there creeks and streams nearby that fill up fast when it rains? What’s the drainage like in your area?
If your risks are high, get flood insurance. Most homeowners policies do not cover flooding from rising water.
You may be able to reduce your risks by improving drainage. Install drains or dig ditches to help divert water before it has a chance to rise.
In some cases, sandbags can stop floodwaters from entering your home. Get sandbags if you may need them, and be sure to fill them up ahead of time.
As with any disaster, you need to have a disaster supply kit. Keep it handy so you can load it and go in case you must evacuate suddenly.
When the threat of flooding is high, evacuate early. Don’t wait until it’s already flooded. If you have time, shut off the electricity before you go.
The Power of Floodwaters
Don’t underestimate the power of floodwaters. They can move swiftly, often faster than they appear. They are very dangerous.
Never allow children to play near floodwaters.
Adults are also in danger. As little as six inches of moving water can knock an adult off their feet.
If you become stranded by floodwaters and must escape, wear a life jacket. In some situations, it may be safer to climb onto a rooftop or into a tree and wait for rescue.
Avoid Flooded Roads
Never drive into flooded roadways. It’s always dangerous. In fact, half of all flood-related deaths are caused when people drive into flooded roadways.
Water can look like it’s only a few inches deep when it’s actually several feet deep. All it takes is one foot of water to make a car or SUV float. And if the floodwaters are moving, your car can be swept away in a matter of seconds.
If you see water on the road – turn around, don’t drown.
Recovering from Floods
Wait for officials to give the all-clear before returning home. When it’s safe to go home, take the following precautions:
- Do not enter your home if the electricity may still be on.
- Beware of displaced wildlife, such as snakes and bats. Do not handle them.
- Wear sturdy shoes, long pants, long sleeves and gloves when cleaning up.
- Follow safety recommendations when using chain saws and power tools.
- Help prevent mold by disinfecting household items with a bleach solution.
- After floods, mosquitoes can become a major problem. Reduce their breeding grounds by draining stagnant water in your yard.
Safeguarding Your Health
- Discard foods that came into contact with floodwater, and refrigerated foods that have reached room temperature.
- Tap water may be unsafe to drink. Drink bottled water instead, or boil water for at least one minute. As an alternative, you can purify water by mixing 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon; stir and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Drink plenty of fluids and do not overexert yourself. Be aware of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
- If you are not up-to-date on your tetanus shot, get a booster shot before cleaning up. Tetanus bacteria can enter the body through puncture wounds, cuts and scratches.
- Never use generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills inside your home, garage or near open windows. These devices produce carbon monoxide – a deadly gas – and need to be placed in well-ventilated areas. When using a generator, be sure to install a carbon monoxide detector because you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide.
- After a disaster, it’s common to experience emotional distress. Learn about protecting your family’s emotional health.