Flash floods kill more people in the United States than any other thunderstorm phenomenon. Only lightning kills more people in Colorado each year. Flash flooding is typically caused by heavy rain falling quickly over a small area, causing minor streams to burst their banks.
The destructive power of flowing water is impossible to comprehend, but the outcome of the Big Thompson Canyon Flood on July 31, 1976, was clear. The Thompson flood resulted in 145 fatalities, destroyed 418 homes and 52 businesses, and costed the state $35 million.
The survivors described a rushing wall of churning water, a rapid rise in water level, and a loud sound. Even with a truck, it was difficult to outrun the water down the canyon. The only way to get to safety was to scale the canyon walls. Floodwaters and flash floods are likely if abnormally heavy rainfall occurs.
They are prevalent following a cyclone, several days of rain, or even the melting of snow. As a result, flooding in all directions is possible. For that reason, you should practice extreme caution if you reside in a low-lying location or near a body of water.
Coastal areas are more exposed during hurricane season (June to November), but the Midwest is more vulnerable during the summer monsoon season. However, if you act quickly, you will be ready for a flood and will have peace of mind in the meanwhile. Here are some flood protection precautions that Colorado citizens should take.
1. Know Local Flooding Alerts and Signs
All Colorado residents are recommended to get familiar with the National Weather Service’s periodic flash flood warnings. A flood advisory means that thunderstorms have brought heavy rain, which may cause ponding on roadways and low-lying areas, as well as rises in small stream levels, but poses no immediate threat to life or property.
A flash flood watch signifies that circumstances are favorable for flash flooding. Normal activities should continue during a watch, but you should keep an eye on the local media and the situation. Take into account your placement with streams and rivers. Be alert and prepared to seek higher ground if necessary. Keep an eye out for rising water levels, since roadways may flood in unexpected ways.
Also, pay attention to local radio, television, and the National Weather Service radio for flash flood alerts and bulletins. Find a radio that runs on batteries or a hand crank, as well as extra batteries. A flash flood warning indicates that flooding has occurred or is imminent. Make your way to higher ground on foot as soon as a warning is given, as you may only have a few minutes to reach safety.
Flash flooding can occur regardless of the weather. Recognize flash flood warning signals, such as heavy rain, a fast rise in creek level, or the creek water becoming muddy and full of debris.
2. Protect Important Documentation
Most disasters happen in the blink of an eye. As a result, making the required preparations ahead of time is critical to ensure that your family is ready. Important records must be safely stored and protected, among other measures. There are no hard and fast rules for protecting your documents from disaster other than your own will.
The idea is to have everything in at least two places in case one is destroyed or inaccessible. The position of each item will be determined by when you expect to require it and how difficult it will be to replace. In general, you have a couple of options available when saving your documents:
A small space like this has to have very limited storage capacity. The most significant requirement is a government-issued identity card, such as a driver’s license. Keep your military ID, medical insurance card, doctor’s contact information, and any relevant medication facts on hand as well. Carry photos of your family and pets with you; if you become separated, they will help you reunite.
Safety Deposit Box
For a nominal annual cost, you can rent a safe deposit box from your bank or credit union. A safe deposit box adds an extra layer of security. Even if the bank suffers the same disaster as you, the vault is likely to remain standing. It also serves as a haven for items other than documents, such as jewels.
A safe deposit box, on the other hand, can be troublesome if you need to access its contents regularly or when the bank is closed. It’s also a concern if you keep items in the safe deposit box that you might need soon after a tragedy because the bank might be unavailable.
Choose originals of items that you will not need quickly and that are difficult or impossible to replace when determining what to store in your safe deposit box. The original or sole copy of your will should not be kept in a safe deposit box since it may be “sealed” after your death. Fill down the blanks with a copy of your will and any instructions.
Your home box should be fireproof, secure, and movable. This is an excellent location for storing originals and duplicates of anything you may require promptly. It is also an option for papers that must be updated frequently, can be modified on the fly, or are too large to store in a safe deposit box.
A home box is vulnerable to theft and may be rendered inoperable if your home is damaged or rendered inoperable while you are away.
Watertight plastic bags should be used to store everything in your home box, including a copy of your will. Keep one of your safe deposit box keys in this location as well.
If you hire an attorney to draft legal documents on your behalf, he or she will almost always keep an original copy. Your attorney may be permitted to keep your funeral or other instructions, as well as the key to your second safe deposit box if you prefer.
A Relative or Friend
Keeping copies of key documents with a trustworthy someone who does not live nearby is an excellent approach to prevent a regional disaster, such as a hurricane, from destroying all of your data. However, keep in mind that you will not have fast access to anything stored here.
This is also a good place to retain your second safe deposit box key, as well as the box’s location and description, the names and phone numbers of your attorney and executor, and any instructions you desire to provide.
3. Shelter in Place or Evacuate
In the event of an emergency, your action plan would define your evacuation route. The location of evacuation facilities in your area can be obtained from the local authority. It is advisable to practice your evacuation route to become acquainted with it.
You must leave if a flood warning is issued for your area. Move to higher ground and stay there until the location is assessed to be safe. Secure your home if time allows before fleeing. Bring in outdoor furniture. Move important objects to the top floor of your home’s upper story.
Cut off the utilities on demand by using the main switches or valves. Unplug any electrical appliances. Avoid using electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. Walking into moving water should be avoided. A human can be knocked to the ground by six inches of rushing water. If you must walk in water, choose a quiet body of water. Examine the stability of the ground in front of you using a stick.
If you come across a running stream with water above your ankles, turn around and travel differently. Water’s energy and strength are often underestimated.
4. Store Dry Goods
Gather emergency supplies including water and nonperishable food. Store at least one gallon of water for each adult and pet every day. Maintain a three-day supply at all times.
When putting together your emergency food supplies, keep the following in mind:
- Nonperishable food should be stored for at least a few days.
- Choose foods that your family will enjoy.
- Keep in consideration any unique dietary needs.
In the event of floods, the following list of dry things may be quite useful.
- A can opener, canned meats, veggies, and fruits.
- Protein or fruit bars.
- Dry cereal or granola.
- The peanut butter.
- Dried fruit.
- Juices sold in cans.
- Pasteurized milk that is not perishable.
- Calorie-dense foods.
- Formula for infants.
- Foods for stress relief and comfort.
5. Protect Property
If your house is at a moderate to high risk of flooding, you should get flood insurance right away. Flood insurance is required for all homeowners, regardless of whether they live in a FEMA-designated flood zone because homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damage.
Flooding is not covered by normal home insurance plans since FEMA defines it as “a general and temporary state of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of ordinarily dry land area or two or more properties.” This does not rule out the possibility of obtaining coverage. For coverage, you will typically need to acquire a separate flood insurance policy.
You may be able to receive coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a flood insurance business, or a private insurance company. A flood endorsement could be included in your homeowner’s insurance policy. Check out these homeowners insurance options in Colorado.
Remember that flood insurance does not take effect for 30 days from the purchase date, therefore it is critical to obtain the necessary coverage well before the weather worsens.
Keeping Yourself Safe Against Flash Floods
If it’s pouring in your area, remember that flooding is not unavoidable! Thunderstorms at higher elevations upstream should be avoided if you reside near a mountain-sourced stream. Keep in mind that you should NEVER, EVER camp near a mountain stream. Also, avoid driving or walking on flooded roads. After 6 to 12 inches of running water, most vehicles begin to float. Furthermore, the roadbed may have eroded, resulting in much deeper water than anticipated.
If your car stalls, get out as soon as possible and get to higher ground. Be especially vigilant at night, when flood threats are more difficult to identify. Low-lying places, canyons, and dry washes should be left alone. If local officials tell you to evacuate, do so immediately! Allowing children to play near floodwaters or storm drains is not a good idea. Always listen to NOAA Weather Radio and keep an eye on television stations for the most up-to-date weather information.