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Many people associate floods with hurricanes, thanks to the high number of these natural disasters in recent years. Yet flooding can also devastate places most think of as being “high and dry.” States with the highest average annual spending on flood damage repair include Louisiana, Texas and a number of northeastern states — plus California, Colorado, Iowa and Missouri. Clearly, flooding is a threat in large portions of the United States.


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Following are basic steps for staying safe and coping during both a flood and its immediate aftermath:


  • Don’t walk through flowing water: Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Most of these drownings occur during flash floods. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Use a pole or stick to probe and make sure that the ground is still there before you go through an area where the water is flowing fast.

  • Don’t drive through flooded areas: More people drown in their cars than anywhere else, chiefly because it can be difficult or impossible to judge water depth accurately from behind the wheel. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out. Two feet of water is enough to float even the largest, heaviest truck or SUV. “Turn Around — Don’t Drown” is advice the U.S. National Weather Service broadcasts any time the potential for flooding exists.

  • Stay away from power lines and electrical wires: Electrocution is also a major killer in floods. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to your utility company or local emergency manager.

  • Turn off the electricity when you return home: Some appliances, such as television sets, can shock you even after they have been unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.

  • Watch for animals, especially snakes: Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to poke around and turn over items before handling them.

  • Look before you step: After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken glass and nails. Floors and stairs that are covered with mud can be very slippery.

  • Be alert for gas leaks: Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke, and don't burn candles, lanterns or open flames unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area has been aired out.

  • Carbon monoxide exhaust kills: Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine outdoors. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from charcoal are especially deadly — cook with charcoal only outdoors.

  • Clean and dry everything that got wet: Floodwaters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings. Spoiled food and flooded cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. When in doubt, throw them out. Until it has been completely dried out, even your house itself presents a health hazard due to contamination and mold growth. You may wish to consult a water remediation specialist.

  • Take good care of yourself: Recovering from a flood is a big job. It is tough on both the body and the spirit. The effects a disaster has on you and your family may last a long time. Watch out for anxiety, stress and fatigue.


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Flood:  Created on June 4th, 2009.  Last Modified on November 9th, 2009


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