Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. In fact, a home located in a high risk flood zone has a 26 percent chance of sustaining flood damage during the life of a 30-year mortgage compared to a four percent chance of fire damage.
New residents in Maricopa County are often surprised to learn the region's desert environment is conducive to flash flooding, due to unique soil and topography characteristics, winter and summer rainy seasons, and a widespread network of natural riverbeds, washes and channels.
A flash flood is a torrent of water rushing through a normally dry or low-flow creek, stream, wash, ravine and culvert, or through other low-lying areas. During a rainstorm, normally dry waterways can quickly become raging rivers due to water running off mountains and higher elevations onto the flat terrain below.
Flash floods are life-threatening situations that can strike without warning. Remembering the following safety facts could save your life:
- Stay Out of Flooded Washes, Rivers and Streams! The rushing water of a flash flood collects soil and debris as it moves along and destroys everything in its path.
- Six inches of water can sweep a person off their feet.
- Two feet of water will cause many automobiles to float.
- Nearly half of all flash flood-related fatalities involve motorists.
Find out from the Flood Control District if you live in a flood-prone area and learn about the history of flooding in your region. Also, ask the District whether your property is above or below the flood stage water level.
- Learn the flood warning signs and community alert signals in your area.
- If you live in a frequently flooded area, stockpile emergency building materials, such as plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, hammer and saw, shovels and sandbags.
- Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains. As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs or basins.
- Plan and practice a family evacuation route and alternatives.
- Have disaster supplies on hand, such as flashlights and extra batteries; a portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries; first-aid kit and manual; emergency food and water; non-electric can opener; essential medicines; cash and credit cards; sturdy shoes; and clothes.
- Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during floods, have a plan for getting back together.
- Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact."
- Make sure that all family members know how to respond during and after a flood.
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1 and which radio station to tune into for emergency information.
- Make sure everyone knows how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water.
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