Before I get into a whole discussion about floods, I want to define what a flood is. A flood is an event that can be triggered by a number of events. This includes melting ice and snow, several days of heavy rain, or a thunderstorm which produces rain at a rate far above the rate the ground can take it in. Floods can happen anywhere, even in places that are arid.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it flood in Las Vegas, Nevada over the last twelve years. Perhaps the worst flood I have ever been in was Henderson, Nevada on August 10, 1997. I was ten years old at the time. My parents, sister, and some friends went to see George of the Jungle on the hot and humid Sunday afternoon. The skies had been clear all the way up to the time that we got there which was probably between 10:00-10:30 a.m. We went in and were in there for less than an hour when we heard a loud crack of thunder and the entire theater lost power. I was not scared, but I was curious. The power came on briefly and then went out again after another crack of thunder. I ran out of the theater room to see what was going on outside (I had been interested in the weather since I was 3). I got to the front doors and I was astonished by what I saw outside. It looked like a hurricane was hitting us! The small little trees in the parking lot were bending at one hundred eighty degrees and some had snapped in half and hail the size of marbles pelted the cars. The rain was falling so heavily that you couldn’t see but maybe a foot or two, if that. What was really scary were the waves of muddy water that were lapping up against the bottom of the doors and starting to leak inside. The entire parking lot was under a good two feet of water. Thankfully, our car had been parked on a higher level and was not under water. Unfortunately, many others were not so lucky. I’d say at least a half dozen cars parked directly in front of the building would end up being total losses.
My family and I were trapped in the theater for about two hours before the rain slowed enough for us to get out. We walked through about a foot of water to get to our car and my dad drove through the flooded streets. I am not kidding when I Say that it looked like an ocean outside my car window. My dad avoided the flood at all costs and managed to drive in higher areas where there was not too much water covering the road. The rain picked up again and he had to park in a supermarket parking lot until it subsided. I was amazed at the sights I saw. All of the streets around us were under at least two feet of water. At one of the stores a short distance away from us, I saw a man trying to sweep water out of his shop, but torrents of water kept pouring back in. He was fighting a losing battle.
After sitting for about an hour, my dad took to the streets again and did all he could to avoid the flooding. He managed to reach a highway which, thankfully, was flood free. After being stuck in that situation for over three hours, we made it to our home which was only about five miles away. Amazingly, it was sunny and rain free.
The storms had gone on from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. that day and left over eighty homes and business in ruins. We live in a desert that gets about four inches of rain a year and some areas exceeded that amount in the ten hours the storms ravaged the city. I remember this flood so vividly because of the fact that some of the events left such a lasting impression. I had never been in a flood like that in my life and, being only ten at the time, I had a new found respect for the power of water.
So, what can a person do to protect themselves flooding? Unfortunately, flooding can strike anywhere at any time and if the rain comes down hard and fast enough, there may be very little time to prepare. The smartest thing a person can do is adopt the National Weather Service’s slogan “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” Try to find an alternate route and if that is not possible, sit tight. I can’t believe how many people try to cross an intersection where several feet of water covers the road. It just is not worth the risk to your life. Your life is the most valuable thing you have, so don’t lose it by making a bad decision. If your car is caught in a flood, it is safer to stay in the car because just a few inches of running water can sweep you away and you could drown.
Another way a person can protect themselves from flooding is by keeping tabs on the latest weather forecasts. Consider buying a weather radio so you can get the latest watches and warnings. Heavy rains can pop up in your area without much notice, so keep an eye to the sky. If a flash flood warning is issued, that means that flooding is about to occur or is occurring. Get to higher ground immediately. If that is not possible, go to the highest level of your home. Also, make sure you have the proper first aid kit and supplies. Make sure you have food, water, and batteries, especially if you are in a rural area where someone cannot get to you as fast.
There are ways you can protect your property before flood dangers knock at your door. In the event that a flood occurs, you may lose a majority of you sentimental items and other property. While you cannot get many things such as pictures back, you can protect the financial aspects of your property. Flood insurance is a great option for people in all locations. It doesn’t matter if you live in an area that gets a hundred inches of rain a year or just four inches. In most cases, you do not even have to be in a designated flood zone to get flood insurance because flooding can happen anywhere without much notice. All you have to do is call your local homeowner’s insurance company or the one you currently have and ask about flood insurance. They will take you through the process step by step. Again, everyone is eligible for flood insurance. This includes renters, condo owners, and commercial business owners. Keep in mind that many property insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so it may be smart to check on that. Today, many communities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, so you may want to look more into that as well. Do not wait until it is too late. You could have your home and belongings one minute and lose all of them the next.