Most communities in the United States can experience some kind of flooding after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms or winter snow thaws. Floods can be slow or fast-rising, but generally develop over a period of days. Flash floods usually result from intense storms dropping large amounts of rain within a brief period. Flash flooding can occur with little or no warning and can reach its peak in only a few minutes.
Flood waters can be extremely dangerous. The force of six inches of swiftly moving water can knock an adult person off his or her feet. The best protection during a flood is to leave the area and seek shelter on higher ground.
Flash flood waters move very quickly and can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and obliterate bridges. Walls of water can reach heights of 10 to 20 feet and generally are accompanied by a deadly cargo of debris. The best response to any signs of flash flooding is to move immediately and quickly to higher ground.
Just two feet of moving water can float and carry away most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks. You can protect yourself best by being prepared and having time to act.
Before a Flood
- Check with your local floodplain administrator to determine if you live in a flood-prone area.
- Click here for a list of Ohio’s local floodplain administrators – provided by the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Resources.
- Click here for additional information on flood maps and flood insurance studies.
- Consider installing check valves in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains.
- Plan and practice an evacuation route.
- Have disaster supplies on hand.
- Develop an emergency communication plan.
- Flood damage to vehicles is covered by auto insurance when comprehensive coverage is purchased.
During a Flood Watch
- Listen to a radio or television for the latest storm information.
- Fill bathtub, sinks and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated.
- Move valuable household possessions to upper floors or to safe grounds if time permits.
- If you are instructed by local authorities, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
- Be prepared to evacuate.
During a Flood Warning
- If indoors, turn on a battery-powered radio or NOAA Weather Radio to get the latest emergency information. If your area is advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- If outdoors, climb to high ground and stay there. Avoid walking through any flood waters.
- If you are driving and have come to a flooded area, turn around and go the other way. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to drive through flooded roadways.
During an Evacuation
- If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters block your escape. Leave early enough to avoid being marooned by flooded roads.
- Never attempt to drive or walk through flood waters. Water could be deeper than it appears and floodwater currents can be deceptive. Remember, it only takes two feet of water to carry away most vehicles.
- Listen to Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages on the radio or television for evacuation instructions
- Follow recommended evacuation routes. Shortcuts may be blocked.
After a Flood
The hours immediately following a flood can be very confusing. When disaster strikes, the county emergency management agency and local government initiate rescue, evacuation and shelter missions and provide emergency assistance to meet the public’s immediate needs.
If the commissioners declare a state of emergency for the county, the local EMA may contact the Ohio EMA for assistance in coordinating state resources and response activities. Based on the extent of the incident, the governor may declare a state of emergency for the affected county(ies). If disaster damages exceed state and local capabilities, the governor may request the president to grant federal disaster assistance through FEMA.
- Before entering a flood-damaged building, check the foundation for cracks and inspect porch roofs and overhangs to be sure they are adequately supported. Ask a building inspector to check the house before you go inside.
- Be alert for gas leaks. Do not strike a match or use open flame when entering a building unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area ventilated.
- Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.
- For more information on floods or flood safety, contact your state or local emergency management agency; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water; the National Weather Service; or your local American Red Cross chapter.
For additional information on Ohio flooding and flood insurance, visit the following sites:
- Ohio Insurance Institute
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Floodplain Management
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
Additional Flood Safety Tips
- Evacuate areas that are subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
- If driving, be aware that the road bed may not be intact under flood waters. Turn around and go another way. NEVER drive through flooded roads or low water crossings. Rapidly rising waters may engulf the vehicle and sweep it away.
- If camping, choose camp sites along waterways with care. Remember that storms that are miles away could bring raging water your way.
Flood – A condition that occurs when water overflows the natural or artificial confines of a stream or body of water, or accumulates by drainage over low-lying areas.
General River Flooding – follows heavy rain, snow melt or their combination. While river flooding typically occurs slowly, allowing more time to take protective measures, extreme flash flooding or a breakup of an ice jam along a river can produce more rapid river rises.
Urban and Small Stream Floods – occurs when heavy rain falls, resulting in flooded streets, underpasses or drainage ditches in urban areas, and creeks in rural areas. Not usually life-threatening on its own, but can be, if motorists drive through a flooded roadway or children play near a storm drain or drainage ditch.
Flash Floods – Rapid and life-threatening floods from heavy rains occurring in a short period of time, usually in hilly or mountainous areas, or produced by the failure of a dam.
Flood/Flash Flood Watch – Usually issued for several hours indicating that conditions are favorable for possible flooding or flash flooding.
Flood/Flash Flood Warning – Issued when flooding or flash flooding is imminent or occurring. This indicates a need to take protective measures.