Irene makes landfall: Flooding and Safety

As Category 2 Hurricane Irene leaves the East Coast of the United States in shambles, another tropical storm decided to join in on the damage.

Hurricane Irene began on the coast of North Carolina, first striking the Outer Banks. It continued up the East Coast, leaving over 4 million people in the United States without power and 46 deaths in 13 states. This storm was underestimated by, especially those in parts of New Jersey, New York City and Long Island. Many believed “yeah right, a hurricane hitting us?” – well it did, and it hit hard.

Road closed due to flooding in South Old Bridge, New Jersey. Photo taken by Gillian Shaw.

After Irene finished up destroying the East Coast, Tropical Storm Lee hit the Gulf Coast. Many in New Orleans were without power, nearly 4,000 to be exact – but nowhere as close as the power outages during Irene. Lee weakened to a Tropical Depression after a couple of days, and although it is no longer a tropical threat, remnants of the storm remain. There are flood watches and warnings all over the northeastern United States. Most already have major flooding issues.

The problem with floods is that sometimes people do not know the necessary “terms,” such as the difference between a “flood watch” and “flood warning.” FEMA  illustrates both of these on their website; check out Flood: Know Your Terms. Also, many people do not know what safety precautions to take before, during and after a flood, so here are a few safety tips presented below.

FEMA – BEFORE A FLOOD:

To prepare for a flood, you should:

  • Avoid building in a floodprone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Install “check valves” in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.

FEMA – DURING A FLOOD:

If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:

  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

The following are guidelines for the period following a flood:

  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.

Please take these safety precautions seriously if you are in a place where there is a flood. Not only can you save your own life, but you can save the lives of many others by learning how to prepare for a flood. Also, if you had an experience from this storm feel free to share your story with great detail and photographs! To read the full safety precautions for before, during and after floods visit FEMA’s website section on floods.