Thursday, January 8, 2009

Flood Report

First it was massive snow and now it is massive rain causing--what else--massive flooding. Although we are high and dry, hundreds of thousands of others in our state aren't. Here's a bundle of random observations:
  • Keep your road drains clear. When they get covered up with leaves and debris, even moderate rain can back up and cause minor flooding.

  • This is another reason to have a BOB (bug out bag). Many people were caught unprepared in areas that flooded rapidly. They had to evacuate with very little notice and many on the news were leaving with just the clothes on their backs. Always evacuate with a well-stocked BOB.

  • Think again about your evacuation plan. When people in our area think about evacuation, we think we have a number of options--north to Canada, east to Idaho, or south to Oregon. As of this afternoon ALL of these roads were closed due to flooding and mud slides so we are, in effect, an island with no way out other than boat or aircraft.

  • Think also about keeping your food stocked up. Because all roads in and out are closed due to flooded roadways, it means that delivery trucks which are carrying the food that stocks our grocery store shelves can't get in. While this shouldn't last for more than a week or so, I am guessing there are plenty of families with children that are going to be needing milk, diapers, and other basic supplies who aren't prepared.

  • The best sources of information about current road conditions: local online newspapers, TV news broadcasts, AM talk radio, department of emergency management websites, and county road department websites.

  • Speaking of AM talk radio, one particular station was doing an excellent job today of letting the public get on the air and give first hand reports about the roads in their area. They also were allowing people who needed help with sandbagging and other tasks get on the air and ask the public directly for help which seemed to, pardon the pun, bring out a flood of volunteers.
  • There are some areas that flood like this every year. Why people insist on rebuilding in these areas is beyond me.
  • Note that floods are usually not covered by homeowners insurance. Without separate flood insurance you will be (another pun) up a creek without a paddle.
  • Don't drive over flooded roads. You hear this every time there is a flood and every time there is a flood, somebody drives over a road that is flooded. While they may have driven over this road every day for years, as one guy saw today, the road that he knew so well was actually missing under all of the water. It had washed out and so instead of driving through a puddle of water, his car hit the drop off and floated away, with him inside. He was able to get to the roof of the car and call for help which required a swift water rescue team and no doubt a lecture by the local fire chief.
  • If you have a septic tank and/or well, you will have problems if your area floods. If there is any question about flood water getting into your well, always boil your water until you get the all clear from the health department. This is also a good reason to have water stocked for an emergency.
  • You need an evacuation plan for just these types of emergencies. Where would you go? What will you do with your pets and/or livestock? How will you get to your destination? Do you have alternate ways to get to your destination and/or alternate evacuation destinations?
  • Keep your cell phone charged. When you evacuate, or in the case of the guy stranded in his floating car, you may need to call for emergency help. If the battery on your cell phone has died, you will have a problem.
  • In situations like these is is always good to have skis (in the case of heavy snow) and a boat, even if it is a simple kayak or canoe, in the case of heavy flooding.

Anyway, that's my observations of the situation. Some preparedness ideas: never build in a flood plain. It is fine for pastureland if you also have much higher ground available for your animals, but the thought of having to sandbag each year or move your furniture to the second floor each winter is ludicrous. Always have a BOB, cash, and charged cell phone on hand. If you are high and dry, stay home where you are safe; wandering around to "see what's happening" can put you in a precarious situation.

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