Spring storms deliver reminder of flood dangers

052013-stormkhRecent flooding in Texas and Oklahoma are a stark reminder of the dangers of floods and flash floods.

As of mid-day on Wednesday, May 27, moderate flooding was reported on the Neosho River at Neosho Rapids, Kan., with water levels at approximately two and half feet above the 22 feet flood stage. Moderate flooding was also reported along the Neosho near Parsons and Oswego.

Minor flooding was reported on the Cottonwood River near Emporia and at several locations along the Marais des Cygnes River in eastern Kansas in addition to Cow Creek above Hutchinson and on the Arkansas River near Arkansas City. Ten other gauges in the eastern half of Kansas were near flood stage. Multiple road closures are reported due to flood conditions.

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Some will develop over the course of several days, while flash floods can strike in minutes, even without visible signs of rain. Floods may be localized in a neighborhood or community or they may affect entire river basins over many states. In 2011, heavy snowfalls in the north and excessive rains resulted in floods all along the Missouri River Basin, including several Kansas counties bordering the Missouri River.

Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or hours of heavy rainfall or the failure of a dam or levee. Flash floods often carry rocks, mud and other debris.

Overland floods, the most common type of flooding, generally occurs when rivers or streams overflow their banks. It can also occur when rainfall or snowmelt exceeds the capacity of underground pipes or the capacity of streets and drains to carry flood water away from urban areas.

It is vital for everyone to be aware of flood hazards, especially in low-lying areas, near water, behind a levee or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds or low-lying ground can flood.

When encountering high water, think about these precautions:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles and pick-ups.
  • Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection. Turn around and go the other way.
  • Do not try to take short cuts. They may be blocked. Stick to designated evacuation routes.
  • Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Always be aware of the weather forecast for your area and the possibility of flooding. Be prepared to leave the area, if necessary.

The National Weather Service recommends taking precautionary measures prior to a flooding event that can save your life and give you peace of mind. Creating an emergency communication plan, assembling an emergency or disaster kit, and ensuring you have a method of being alert and informed such as emergency notifications or a weather alert radio can help prepare your household for any emergency or disaster.

The National Weather Service advises that if it is likely your home will flood, leave as soon as you can, don’t wait to be ordered to leave. Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or make arrangements to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger.

If you need to leave, be sure to take your emergency kit, if time allows. Preparing an emergency or disaster kit in advance will save valuable time during an evacuation. In your emergency kit, be sure to include items in an easy to transport container, including food and water for each member of the household for 72 hours (including pets), first aid supplies and medications, copies of important documents, flashlights and batteries, extra clothes and shoes, blankets or sleeping bags, and a battery operated radio. Other items such as comfort items and irreplaceable items can be added to your kit.

You should also prepare your pets for disasters and emergencies by creating a disaster or emergency kit for your pet containing food and water for 72 hours, copies of vaccination records, photo of you with your pet, I.D. tags, leash and collar or harness, medications, blanket, crate, and toys. Part of planning for your pet will include identifying pet friendly lodging in the area, or identifying a friend or boarding facility that would be available to provide housing for your pet if you are dislocated.

If you must prepare to evacuate your home, you should do the following as time allows:

  • Gather your family and pets emergency or disaster kit.
  • If you evacuate your home do not leave your pets behind.
  • Ready your family and pets to evacuate as instructed.
  • Shut off water, gas and electricity if instructed to do so by emergency officials.
  • Lock your house.
  • Let family members know where you will be going and what route you will be traveling.

If you have large animals ensure that you also prepare them before a disaster. Ready.gov recommends ensuring that all animals have some form of identification and that planning be done in advance for evacuating your animals including planning for transportation, handling, food and water, and what to do if you cannot evacuate your animals.

For more information and suggestions on preparing for disasters and emergencies, visit www.ksready.gov.

Information provided by the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department.

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