While earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires often get the most attention; flooding is the United State’s number one disaster. Over the last decade floods have caused an average of 2.5 billion dollars in damage. Even an inch of water can cause major damage and homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. Roughly 90 people a year die in floods.

Knox Countians are familiar with the many spots along local roads that become inundated after a good rain. Just last year 17 homes were damaged in flooding along Ky 225. The town of Barbourville has seen its fair share of major floods as well, the levee surrounding the city a constant reminder of the power of the Cumberland. It can be easy to dismiss a little water running across the road or river running through the yard where a creek one flowed. Complacency is often the biggest killer, so it’s important to take precautions.

  1. Be ready. Not just for flooding but any disaster. Keep at least three days of supplies available in case one becomes trapped. A good survival kit goes a long way in an emergency. Check flood maps to see if you need flood insurance and Keep important documents in a waterproof container.
  2. Stay out. Six inches of water can knock a person over, one foot can sweep a car away. Being caught in a torrent is not somewhere you want to be. Aside from the water itself, debris and pollutants are major hazards. You should also avoid bridges and other structures over flood waters as they may be compromised.  Remember; Turn Around, Don’t Drown. If you are trapped in your car, stay there if you can; if the water is rising in the vehicle, get on the roof. Try to avoid places you could become trapped like enclosed attics as well.
  3. Pay attention. Listen for evacuation orders and be ready to move to higher ground if possible. If you don’t need to leave, stay put. Authorities may instruct you to turn off the power as well.
  4. After a flood, be mindful. Animals like snakes may enter your home for shelter. Power lines may be damaged and could electrify flooded areas. Floods can also heighten the chance for mudslides and weaken structures like roads and dams.

Floods can strike without warning and can be deadly to those caught in them. In 2015 four Boy Scouts were swept away in a flash-flood, with one dying as a result. The scouts were at the popular Philmont Scout’s Ranch and had taken all the appropriate precautions and followed all the procedures. Even the most trained and experienced people can still be taken by surprise by these deadly disasters. More information on flood safety and preparedness tips can be found at ready.gov and redcross.org.

Jeff Ledington is a certified FEMA External Affairs Specialist and holds a Congressional Award and President’s Volunteer Service Council Award for efforts in disaster preparedness and recovery. He has developed disaster preparedness courses for state level emergency managers and given presentations to hundreds of school age kids.

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