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Emergency 101 – Flash Flooding

When in doubt - turn around, don't drown.


by Benton Best - April 5, 2019

One of the most common natural hazards facing Pennsylvania each year is flooding. In fact, 2018 was the wettest year on record for the Commonwealth which resulted in dozens of floods and even a federal disaster declaration for flooding.

According to the national weather service, widespread flooding incidents resulting from rainfall, like which occurred in 1972, may become less likely overtime. Instead, flash flooding, or heavy intense rain in a localized area causing a sudden flood, may become more common.

The best way to prepare for a flood is to be aware. The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA has identified geographic areas throughout the US which are defined as being at risk to flooding. These areas have been designated as “Special Flood Hazard Areas” and placed on a Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map or DFIRM.

The DFIRM for your area can be found by visiting FEMA here. Once you type in a location, you can see the different flood hazard areas shaded in light blue.

However, it’s important to remember that flood waters don’t follow the FEMA map when it rains. Instead, they take the path of least resistance. The general rule of thumb is that it can flood anywhere. If it rains, it can flood. Therefore, we recommend that EVERYONE be prepared for flooding if they can.

Let’s say we now know we are in a flood area. How can we prepare?

First, ensure that your structures are built to the required Base Flood Elevation of your local floodplain ordinance. Are there flood control measures which can be incorporated into the structure such as raising it, moving it to higher ground, or adding flood gates? Speak to your local emergency manager or floodplain manager for more information.

Secondly, it’s important to speak to your local Emergency Management Coordinator. FEMA and other organizations often have grant funding opportunities available to assist with the elevation of structures, or may even be able to buy your home from you if it has been repeatedly damaged by floods.

Lastly, have you considered looking into flood insurance? If you are inside FEMA’s Special Flood Hazard Area, you can apply for flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP.

If you are outside of the Special Flood Hazard Area, you can still get flood insurance and often times it is a nominal cost, however you may need to ask your insurance carrier about it directly.

For more information on flood insurance, please go to the Pennsylvania department of insurance page.

What if flooding is already occurring?

It’s important to remember the dangers of water. Most flood waters have gathered up various pollutants and waste from the area. This toxic soup of water is no swimming pool and we should avoid going into the water unless we absolutely have to.

In fact, according to FEMA, six inches of water can knock a person off their feet and a foot of water can carry away most vehicles. This can be a deadly mistake.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous water. Many times, this is because the guard rail is still there but the road is washed out underneath the water.

Don’t put your life at risk. Don’t drive through flooded roadways. Instead, Turn Around, Don’t Drown.

Finally, if your property is damaged or destroyed by a flood. Document everything! Even if federal assistance isn’t available, there may be other loan or grant programs available to assist you with what your insurance does not cover. It is best not to expect any financial assistance, but reach out to your emergency manager and see if there are options for help available.


Videography: Andrew Moore

Video Editing: Andrew Moore

Writing: Benton Best


Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by UPMC Susquehanna, Laurel Health Centers

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