Hurricane Flooding

In the last 30 years, inland flooding has been responsible for more than half the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States.
Ed Rappaport — National Hurricane Center

When it comes to hurricanes, wind speeds do not tell the whole story. Hurricanes produce storm surges, tornadoes, and often the deadliest of them all — inland flooding.

While a storm surge is always a potential threat, more people have died from inland flooding in the last 30 years. Intense rainfall is not directly related to the wind speed of tropical cyclones. In fact, some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker storms that drift slowly or stall over an area.

Inland flooding can be a major threat to communities hundreds of miles from the coast as intense rain falls from these huge tropical air masses.

How to Prepare for Floods

  • When you hear hurricane, think inland flooding.
  • Determine whether you live in a potential flood zone.
  • Purchase a NOAA weather radio.
  • Move valuables such as tax records, important documents, and hazardous materials to locations well above the expected water level and away from dampness.
  • Turn off electricity, water, and gas following advice of local officials.
  • Don’t stand in water when turning off electrical power using circuit breakers or fuses.
  • Remove or prepare appliances for flooding by shutting off appliances at the fuse box or breaker panel.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) on any circuits if conditions are damp.
  • Anchor fuel tanks to prevent them from tipping over or floating in a flood, causing fuel to spill or catch fire. Consider emptying the tank and filling it with water to reduce its buoyancy.
  • Plug floor drains to prevent sewage backups.
  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Keep abreast of road conditions through the news media.
  • Move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water.
  • Develop a flood emergency action plan with your community leaders.

Responding Appropriately During a Flood

  • Know what low-lying areas near your home are subject to flooding, such as creeks, drainage channels, streams and bayous.
  • Do not try to walk or drive through flooded areas.
  • Do not attempt to cross flowing water. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Two feet of water will carry most cars away.
  • Stay away from moving water. Moving water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
  • Evacuate if advised or if you feel threatened.
  • If you have time, turn off all utilities at the main switch and move all valuables to a higher floor if possible, but only if you have time.
  • If you’re caught in the house by suddenly rising waters, move to the second floor and/or the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight and a radio with you. Do not try to swim to safety. Wait for help. Rescue teams will be looking for you.
  • Monitor radio and TV for current information.
  • Keep a disaster kit handy.

Recovering After a Flood

Take the appropriate steps to stay safe:

  • Stay away from flooded areas.
  • When flood waters recede, watch out for weakened surfaces.
  • Keep away from downed power lines, especially near water.
  • Monitor radio and TV for current information.
  • If you evacuate, return home only when authorities advise that it is safe.
  • Call your insurance agent. Have your policy and list of possessions handy to simplify the adjuster’s work.
  • When it is safe to return home, be sure your house is not in danger of collapsing before entering.
  • Open windows and doors to let air circulate.
  • Take photos to record the damage.
  • Throw out perishable foods. Hose down appliances and furniture, even if they have been destroyed. You need to keep these for the adjuster’s inspection.
  • Shovel out mud while it is still wet.
  • Have your water tested before using.
  • Wear gloves and boots when cleaning.
  • Make any temporary repairs necessary to stop further losses from the elements and to prevent looting.