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6 tips to help prepare for a flood, minimize damage to your home

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer


Flooding is among the most common and devastating natural hazards on Earth. In the United States, floods hold the title as the deadliest weather-related killer, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Property damage stemming from these destructive forces of nature can prove costly, and each year, floods reportedly result in more than $40 billion in damage globally.

In recent days, floodwaters have caused headaches for residents and officials in northwestern U.S. states including Washington, Idaho and Oregon, who have dealt with the frustrating task of cleaning up following floodwaters resulting from heavy rainfall that rushed into their homes and businesses, soaking and destroying their valuables.

Moderate flooding along the Coast Fork of the Willamette and Row rivers on April 7-8 forced about 500 people to evacuate their homes in the area of Eugene, Oregon, in communities hit hard by record-breaking downpours. The rain prompted officials to alert locals to the potential threat of landslides that could occur in the flooding aftermath. The economic impact of the Midwest flooding in March, which began after a ‘bomb cyclone’ triggered massive snowmelt and dropped heavy rainfall that inundated rivers and waterways, has exceeded $1.3 billion in damages, according to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

Flooding in Iowa - AP Photo

This Tuesday, March 19, 2019, aerial photo shows flooding along the Missouri River in Pacific Junction, Iowa. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says rivers breached at least a dozen levees in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. (DroneBase via AP)


There’s no doubt about it -- flooding impacts can be stressful on anyone unfortunate enough to experience them firsthand. However, there are several steps you can take to ensure the safety of your family and belongings if a flood hits your area.

1. Find out if your area is prone to flooding

It’s a good idea to know long before a potential flood disaster whether or not your home is located in an community that faces a greater likelihood of flooding. To find out, you can check with your local government about flood plans or records that detail areas prone to floods.

There are also websites like FloodTools.com and FEMA.gov, which have an address lookup tool to show you if your property lies within a high-risk area. Being aware of your risk in advance can help you avoid a major, unpleasant surprise down the road and can also provide you with ample time to better prepare your home -- for instance, by making improvements like replacing carpet with tile. Potentially harmful mold formation on carpeted floors after a flood event is a frequent issue.

2. Check your flood insurance coverage

In a typical-sized home, just 1 inch of floodwater can set you back $20,000 in damage. Did you purchase an insurance policy that specifically includes coverage for flood damage? If not, you should revisit your policy, as standard insurance policies do not cover flooding. However, flood insurance is available in most places.

3. Place valuables up on higher surfaces

In the event that flooding is imminent, there are several things you can do to get ready.

If you plan to evacuate to a safer location, before you leave home, be sure to roll up any rugs and raise your furniture, clothing and other valuables up onto beds, tables and other high areas. Electrical items should also be disconnected and moved to the highest possible place.

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4. Protect important documents

Make sure that all your important paperwork, photos and vital medical supplies are in a waterproof case, and don’t forget to bring the most essential of these items along with you if you leave.

5. Empty your refrigerator

It’s recommended that before a flood event, you should remove the contents of your fridge and freezers while leaving doors open to avoid damage or loss if they float.

6. Prevent sewage backflow

Place sandbags in your toilet bowl and over your laundry and bathroom drains to prevent sewage backflow. You’ll also want to shut off the power, water and gas at the source.

If you’ve waited too long to evacuate and you’re trapped at home, you should do as many of these tips as possible and get yourself and your family to the highest ground immediately. You should also monitor your local news, cell phone alerts and the free AccuWeather app for severe weather watches and warnings, the latest forecast information, evacuation orders and advice.


For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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