Flooding and Flash Floods
Nationally, floods claim nearly 200 lives each year, force 300,000 people from their homes, and result in property damage in excess of $2 billion. In 2019, six out of the nine state and federally-declared disasters in Minnesota involved some sort of flooding.
About 75 percent of flash-flood deaths occur at night. Half of the victims die in automobiles or other vehicles. Many deaths occur when people drive around road barricades that clearly indicate that the road is washed out ahead.
For extensive information, resources and data about flooding in the U.S. from the National Weather Service (NWS) download the NWS Information book: Floods, The Awesome Power (PDF) or visit the NWS Flood Safety website.
General Flood Preparedness
Before a Flood
Spring and summer rainfalls can be heavy and can produce flash floods in a matter of hours. However, there are a few common sense preparations everyone can take to reduce their risks from harm and property destruction. The following lists a few steps everyone can take to prepare for any type of flood emergency:
- Assemble an emergency supply kit that includes enough provisions for you and your family to live on for a minimum of three days.
- Make an emergency plan for you and your family and share it with them.
Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government.
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio. Listen for information and warnings.
- Elevate appliances such as the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
- Consider installing "check valves" to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home. As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.
- If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.
- Get Flood Insurance. Property insurance does not typically cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider if you need additional coverage. You may also want to learn about the National Flood Insurance Program website.
- Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
- A foot of water will float many vehicles.
- Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
What to do in a Flash Flood
Flash floods occur within six hours of the beginning of heavy rainfall. Below are some guidelines for keeping safe during a flash flood:
- Be prepared to evacuate and go to high ground immediately.
- Get out of areas subject to flooding, such as low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
- Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream on foot. Even water only six inches deep, when moving at a high rate of speed, can knock you off your feet.
- Never drive through flooded areas or standing water. Shallow, swiftly flowing water can wash a car from a roadway. Also, the roadbed may not be intact under the water.
- If the vehicle stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants.
- Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to recognize flood dangers.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
- Understand the difference between a Flash Flood Watch and a Flash Flood Warning
Know the Terms
|Flash Flood Watch||Flash Flood Warning|
|Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information||Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.|
The University of Minnesota Extension (U of MN Extension) has an extensive library of disaster preparedness, response and recovery resources. The U of MN Extension website has fact sheets, pages, guidebooks and videos with research-based tips on immediate and long-term flood issues.
For questions about water, crops, horticulture, and climatology issues call the U of MN Flood Information Hotline at 1-800-232-9077, or Email U of MN Flood Information.
For information about getting flood insurance go to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).