Flooding of historic proportions struck parts of Nebraska last year and while it's been dry so far this year and upstream runoff doesn't seem to be a problem, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association urge us to be prepared, just in case.
Typically, mid-March is when FEMA and NOAA partner to raise flood awareness. This is a time for individuals, families, businesses and communities to understand their risk for flooding and take precautions to protect their families and homes in the event of flooding.
Floods can happen at any time, anywhere across the United States, which means we all need to be ready to take action. As NEMA and NOAA point out, there are simple steps everyone can take to prepare for flooding, such as developing a family emergency plan, having an emergency supply kit and protecting your home or business from flooding by obtaining a flood insurance policy.
Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States, but floods are certainly not all alike. Floods typically occur when too much rain falls or snow melts too quickly. While some floods develop slowly, flash floods develop suddenly. Hurricanes can bring flooding to areas far inland from where they first hit the coast, as we witnessed last year from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. And chunks of ice from a thawing river can block its normal flow and force water out of its banks.
Yet there are simple steps citizens can take today to reduce their risk to floods. Flood Safety Awareness Week is an excellent time for individuals and communities to understand their flood risk and implement precautions to mitigate the threat to life and property.
Flooding is the leading cause of severe weather-related deaths in the U.S., and this is especially tragic since many are preventable. Of the nearly 100 flood-related fatalities each year, most occur as people attempt to drive on flooded roads. In many cases, the water is either too deep or moving too fast for drivers to maintain control of their vehicle, and in extreme cases the roadway may be washed away entirely. That's according to Jack Hayes, director, NOAA's National Weather Service, which produces an array of flood outlooks and forecasts, including watches and life-saving warnings. As NOAA likes to put it, "Remember, if confronted with a water-covered road follow National Weather Service advice: Turn Around, Don't Drown."