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Flood Safety Awareness Week
March 12 - 16, 2012
Flooding is the number one hazardous weather-related killer in the United States. North Carolina is no stranger flooding. In September of 1999, Tropical Storm Dennis and Hurricane Floyd delivered a one-two punch to North Carolina resulting in catastrophic flooding that killed more than 25 people in this state alone, and left thousands homeless. Every March the National Weather Service spends a week focusing on flood prevention and awareness.
Q: What types of flooding can occur in my area?
- Flash Flooding occurs in creeks, streams, and urban areas within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. Streets can become swift moving rivers and underpasses can become death traps.
- River Flooding occurs from heavy rains and in extreme cases, river floods can last a week or more.
- Areal Flooding occurs from heavy rainfall that leads to widespread flooding of low lying areas, typically the water is ponded and not flowing.
- Storm Surge can occur along coastal North Carolina during strong low pressure system and with tropical systems. This is a water level rise of the oceans or sounds as a result of strong winds and low pressure. Storm surges can inundate up to several miles, and can contribute to river flooding.
Q: How do I know how severe a flood will be?
Within flood warning products, the NWS conveys the magnitude of observed or forecast flooding using flood severity categories. These flood severity categories include minor flooding, moderate flooding, and major flooding. Each category has a definition based on property damage and public threat.
- Minor Flooding: minimal or no property damage, but possibly some public threat or inconvenience
- Moderate Flooding: some inundation of structures and roads near streams. Some evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations are necessary.
- Major Flooding: extensive inundation of structures and roads. Significant evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations.
Monday: Advanced Hydrologic Prediction System (AHPS)
The AHPS is part of a continuing effort by the National Weather Service to modernize hydrologic services. The AHPS provides forecast information including more accurate predictions of the magnitude and likelihood of hydrologic events, ranging from droughts to floods. Everyone can benefit from the AHPS. Because every minute counts, the AHPS can help emergency managers be more proactive to defend against a flood. The AHPS provides community leaders and business owners with additional information to make better life saving decisions about evacuations or moving property before a flood, and this information will help recreational users stay out of harm's way.
Products available on the AHPS web pages include forecast hydrographs, probabilistic forecasts, historical crest data, flooding impact information, maps of gage sites, pictures of gage sites, inundation mapping, and links to forecast and observed precipitation data.
For more information visit the AHPS Webpage
Tuesday: "Turn Around Don't Drown"
The theme for Tuesday is "Turn Around, Don't Drown", which is a National Weather Service campaign to warn the public of the hazards of walking or driving through flood waters. Unfortunately, too many people underestimate the force and power of water. As a result, on average more deaths occur each year due to flooding than from any other weather related hazard. More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept away downstream by flood water. Of these drowning deaths, many could have been prevented by people simply not driving into flooding areas.
The following flood safety rules can help save your life.
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately! Get out of areas that are subject to flooding. Such areas include any low spots, dips in roads, canyons, and washes.
- Avoid areas that are already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Never attempt to cross flowing streams. It only takes six inches of quick moving water to knock a person off of their feet.
- Flooded roads often have significant damage hidden by the water. Never drive through flooded roadways, as water only two feet deep can float most automobiles. Turn around, don't drown!
- Do not allow children to play near high water, storm drains or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, especially during threatening conditions.
- Be particularly cautious at night when it is much harder to recognize flood dangers.
Visit the Office of Climate, Water, & Weather Services for more information about the TADD Road Signs Project.
Wednesday: Tropical Cyclones & Inland Flooding
June 1 through November 30 is the official hurricane season. During each season, an average of 10 storms will develop in the Atlantic Basin, 6 of which will likely become hurricanes. In addition to wind, tornadoes, and storm surge flooding, many tropical systems produce inland freshwater flooding. Tropical cyclones can have life threatening effects hundreds of miles inland. (Picture from Duplin County EM of Chinquapin following Hurricane Floyd in September 1999).
Factors affecting inland flooding.
- Storm Speed - The slower the system moves, the more time for the rains to fall over a location.
- Orography - Lifting of the warm, moist tropical air over geographical barriers, such as hills and mountains. Also the gradual increase in elevation as the system moves inland amplifies and intensifies the rain.
- Interaction with other weather features - Agnes (1972) fused with another storm system, producing floods in the northeast U.S., which caused 122 deaths and $3.2 billion dollars in damages.
- Antecedent conditions - The wetness or dryness of the soil, the existing capacity of the streams and rivers, ponds and lakes and reservoirs. Hurricane Dennis in 1999 dropped several inches of rainfall over central and eastern North Carolina a few weeks before Hurricane Floyd made landfall, dropping another several of inches over already swollen rivers and saturated soils. Catastrophic and record flooding resulted with over 50 fatalities resulting from fresh water drowning in North Carolina alone.
Thursday: Flood Insurance
Everyone lives in a flood zone, with their risk of flooding ranging from low to moderate to high. Floods are four times more likely to occur than a fire. Low hazard flood areas are also at risk, as 25 to 35 percent of all claims each year are paid for property located outside high risk areas.
You may think that you are covered for flood damage, but most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, and just a few inches of water in a home can cause thousands of dollars in damage.
Homeowners, renters, and business owners are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as their community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. This is a federal program enabling property owners to purchase insurance protection against losses from flooding. It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it is important to buy insurance before floodwaters start to rise.
Since 1989, North Carolina has been subject to 14 federally declared disasters, including Hurricane Floyd, which resulted in $3.5 billion in damage and the destruction of 4,117 uninsured or under-insured homes. Since Hurricane Floyd, the state of North Carolina has invested millions of dollars into the NC Floodplain Mapping Program where high resolution LIDAR elevation data was used to produce much improved flood inundation maps.
North Carolina's vulnerability to hurricanes and devastating flooding makes it crucial that communities and property owners have accurate, up-to-date information about flooding risks. The National Weather Service believes that accurate, up-to-date flood hazard information is crucial to protect lives and property.
North Carolina Floodplain Mapping
National Flood Insurance Program
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Friday: Flood Safety
Based on a 30 year period, floods are the deadliest weather related killer in the United States, averaging over 100 deaths per year. The most frightening aspect is that most flood related deaths occur when people drive onto flooded roadways or simply walk through moving water. Flooding can occur nationwide. As little as six inches of quick moving water can knock a person off their feet. A water depth of two feet can float most automobiles, including trucks and sport utility vehicles. While most floods cannot be prevented, there are simple steps you can take to protect your life and property.
The following are safety tips you can use to help protect yourself in case of a flood.
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground and stay away from areas that are subject to flooding.
- Do not allow anyone to walk or play near high water, storm drains, or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water.
- Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by the water. Never drive across floodwaters or flooded roads. Never ignore barricades, as they are placed there for your protection.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams or washes, particularly when threatening weather conditions exist.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is much more difficult to recognize flood dangers.
Visit NOAA Flood Safety for more information.