In light of record-breaking flooding in Eastern Kentucky, we took a look at ways to be ready and what to do if caught in a flash flood.

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S. The 30-year average for flood deaths nationally is 88 with average damages close to $8 billion. FEMA’s ready.gov website and organizations like the Red Cross provide extensive resources on prevention, preparedness, and recovery.

Good practice for floods, and any disaster, is to have a plan. Knowing where to go, what to do, how to get information, and having an emergency kit can greatly increase one’s chances of survival in a disaster. Organizations like FEMA recommend families keep three days’ worth of supplies ready in case of a disaster. Those in areas prone to flooding should keep copies of important documents in waterproof storage. 

One of the most common bits of flood advice is “turn around, don’t drown.” Despite the prevalence of the phrase, driving through flood waters remains an issue. In 2016, A Union College professor had to be rescued after attempting to drive through a flooded underpass. According to the National Weather Service, nearly two thirds of flash flood deaths from 1995 to 2010 occurred in vehicles. Just six inches of water can affect a vehicle’s handling and cause a stall; one foot can cause most vehicles to float, and two feet can carry even trucks and SUVs. If you do find yourself stuck in a car in flood waters, don’t leave. Stay inside, or if waters are rising, move to the roof.

When a flood is happening, there are a number of steps you should take. Staying informed is vital in any disaster; an emergency radio can provide important updates even when other services like the internet and television are unavailable. In addition to not driving through flood waters, one should avoid entering waters themselves; just a few inches of moving water can knock someone over and flood waters can be home to disease and pathogens. The high ground is the safest place during a flood. If inside a building, move to the highest level, but avoid spaces like attics where one can become trapped by rising water. Move to the roof as a last resort. 

The immediate aftermath of a flood presents its own hazards. Animals like snakes and may seek shelter in homes and other areas they normally wouldn’t frequent. If possible, turn off electricity to avoid possible electrocution and avoid downed lines and wet equipment. If using a generator, keep it outside to avoid harmful fumes.

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