During floods, better safe than sorry

By Barbara LaBoe

With heavy rain forecast for Western Washington this week, there’s a good chance of minor and even major flooding of rivers. With that in mind, we thought we’d share some flood preparedness tips. We hope none of you have to leave your homes, of course, but with the amount of rain we get in our fair state, these are good tips to review at any time.

The main tip? Pay attention to weather reports and warnings and do NOT drive through standing water. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that’s the cause of most flood-related deaths in Washington.  It only takes six inches of water to stall a vehicle and a foot to float most vehicles, so never take the chance that you’ll be able to make it across a flooded road.

Here are some other tips from FEMA’s www.ready.gov about things you can do before and during a flood to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Before a flood:
  • Create an emergency kit with medical supplies, food and water, dry clothing and important documents stored in a waterproof container.
  • Get a battery-powered radio or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with tone alert. Stock extra batteries for both.
  • Establish a family communications plan and meeting place. Know where you’ll meet if you’re separated during an evacuation. (For flooding in particular, make sure it’s on high ground). Designate a relative or friend outside the area to check in with if you’re separated and can’t reach each other. Here are some examples.
  • Stash extra charging cords or portable chargers for your cellphones in your vehicles so you have them if you have to leave quickly.
If fish can swim across the highway, don’t cross.
This is a photo of US 101 in 2007.
During flooding:
  • Remember your safety, not possessions, is your main priority. If you’re told to evacuate, do so quickly.
  • Follow weather reports closely and be prepared to evacuate quickly, including having key items ready to grab as you leave.
  • If there’s time before an evacuation -- and you can do it safely -- turn off utilities at the main switches or valves. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do NOT touch any electrical equipment if you are wet or are in standing water.
  • Secure your home. If there’s time, move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Follow WSDOT’s Facebook and Twitter pages for our flood response updates. Visit the traffic alerts page for up-to-date road closure information.
While evacuating:
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can knock you down. If you have to cross water to get to safety, walk where the water is still. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. You and your vehicle can be quickly swept away. If floodwaters rise around your car unexpectedly, abandon it and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, even if they’re not flooding at the moment. Conditions can change quickly.
Feeling more prepared? Good.
Now, just remember these tips and do your best to stay safe -- and dry --  in the days to come.