Floods

Image of flooding in front of a bar-b-que dining establishment

Floods are one of the most common dangers in the United States. Floods can occur at any time of the year and just about anywhere in North Carolina. They may be caused by large amounts of rain, hurricanes or dam failures.

Eastern North Carolina had a very bad, record-setting 500-year flood caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Sixty-six of the state’s 100 counties were stated to be disaster areas. North Carolinians living in the mountains had terrible floods in 2004 caused by the leftovers of two hurricanes. Flash floods in the mountains can move very fast, causing landslides, uprooting trees, rolling boulders, and destroying buildings and bridges.

Flooding is dangerous whether you are in your home, driving or on foot. Just a few inches of water can knock you off your feet or sweep your car away. Never drive through flooded roadways. Stay away from swollen streams and rivers.

Be aware that most insurance policies do not include flood damage. Think about buying a separate flood insurance policy. Go to www.ncfloodmaps.com to find out if you are in a flood zone.

Before a Flood

You should know that anywhere it rains, it can flood. Floods can even be in areas with a low risk of flooding. Just because you haven't had a flood in the past doesn't mean you won't in the future. Flood risk is based on a lot of factors including rainfall, landscape, flood-control measures, river-flow and tidal-surge data, flood history and changes due to new construction and development.

Flood-hazard maps have been made to show the flood risk for your area. This helps figure out the type of flood insurance coverage you need. Regular homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover flooding. The lower the degree of risk of flooding, the lower the flood insurance premium.

To prepare for a flood:

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Do not build in a floodplain unless you raise it up and support your home.
  • Raise up the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in a high flood risk area.
  • Think about putting in "check valves" to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • If you can, build barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building. Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.

Know the terms:

  • Flood watch – rainfall is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow their banks. Flooding is possible.
  • Flood warning – flooding is occurring or very likely to happen in an affected river, lake or tidewater area. If told to leave, do so immediately.
  • Flash flood watch – flash flooding in specified areas is possible. Be alert! You may need to take quick action.
  • Flash flood warning – flash flooding is occurring or is likely to happen along certain streams and select areas. Get to a safe place immediately!

During a Flood

Image of a rescue boat floating in a flooded area

If a flood is likely in your area:

  • Listen to the radio or television to learn what to do.
  • Know that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move quickly to higher ground. Do not wait to be told to move.
  • Know that streams, drainage channels, canyons and other areas can flood quickly. Flash floods can happen in these areas with or without typical warnings.

If you must leave:

  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move important items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off water, gas and power at the main switches or valves if told to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, leave the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening weather.

After The Flood

Image of a person pointing to a high water mark on a building from a flood

  • Listen to local officials for when it is safe to return home.
  • Contact your insurance agent to talk about claims.
  • Tune to local media for information on any kind of help that may be given by the state or federal government or other groups.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. Water may be dirty with oil, gasoline or raw sewage.
  • Fixed broken septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as you can. Damaged sewer systems are serious health problems.
  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Clean and cleanse everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals. See Clean Up Tips.
  • Rest often and eat well.
  • Keep a manageable schedule. Make a list and do jobs one at a time.
  • Check references if you hire cleanup or repair contractors. Be sure they are trained to do the job. Be wary of people who drive through neighborhoods offering help in cleaning up or fixing your home.

Flood Insurance

Flood losses are not normally covered under renter and homeowner’s insurance policies. You can get separate flood insurance in most areas through insurance agents. Policies are available whether the building is in or out of a known flood-prone area. There is a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance can begin.

FEMA manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This program makes federally-backed flood insurance available in areas that agree to adopt and apply floodplain management rules to lower future flood damage.

What you can do:

  • Find out if your home or business is at risk for flood. Learn about what a flood can do to you and your family.
  • Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and decide if you need more coverage.
  • Flood insurance is available in most areas through insurance agents.
  • Contact the NFIP. It can help give a way for property owners to financially protect themselves if more coverage is needed. The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters and business owners if their area joins the NFIP. To find out more about the NFIP visit www.FloodSmart.gov.

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