ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Flood Watches, Flood Warnings, and Flood Preparedness

Updated on February 25, 2013
Roads marked with sign warn of possible washed out roads ahead. Drivers should take head of such warnings even though flooding isn't immediatly visible.
Roads marked with sign warn of possible washed out roads ahead. Drivers should take head of such warnings even though flooding isn't immediatly visible. | Source
Flood waters washing over a roadway frequently move along with a current that could easily wash a car away.
Flood waters washing over a roadway frequently move along with a current that could easily wash a car away. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Rainfall is a necessary ingredient for our every day existence, from plant growth to cleansing the atmosphere, as well as for business and home needs. But when it falls in excessive amounts, dropping far more than han the ground can hold and streams can carry away, the inevitable flooding occurs, which often leads to economic and environmental damages in cities and the farming communities. The best way to prepare for such hazards is to understand flooding, the causes, the risks for flooding in their area of the country,how to prepare for a flood event and where to find information.

What Is Flooding?

Flooding is defined as a surplus of rain, melting snow, or water from an overflowing river or lake that causes massive amounts of flowing water to cover land that isn't normally covered by water. It becomes a significant flood when the water escapes the boundaries of lakes and rivers to the point that the water jeopardizes land used by people (towns, cities, farming communities).

Negative Effects of Flooding

Flooding leaves many problems in its wake:

  • Uprooting or killing trees, with long-term flooding triggering root rot.
  • Poor plant growth due to poor soil aeration (the space between the dirt flecks is filled with water instead of air, preventing air from getting to the roots).
  • Soil erosion as the floodwaters drain off, taking top layers of soil with it.
  • Economic damages due to destruction of roads, bridges, buildings, homes as well as harm to crops and livestock which in turn leads to less food supplies and higher prices.
  • Economic stresses caused by the need for repairs to and replacements of storm drainage systems and raw sewage systems.
  • Health related issues caused by breaches of raw sewage systems.
  • Traffic problems in urban areas due to flooded roads, collapsed bridges, and traffic light malfunctions.
  • Flooded out cars littering the roadways, which may leak oil, gas and fluids into the waters. These leaked fluids will either leach into the ground (and the groundwater supply) as flood waters soak into the ground, or get carried out to sea.
  • Interrupted natural gas, electricity and water service, resulting in a lack drinking water .
  • Deaths from dying when cars and homes are engulfed by rapidly rising flood waters.
  • Destructions of wetlands and wildlife habitats by floodwaters and massive deposits of silt or even toxic substances like fertilizers and pesticides, manmade chemicals, and petroleum products.
  • Increased exposure to diseases such as dysentery due to flood water interacting with water from flooded sewage systems and flooded sewage treatment plants. This of course, leads to contaminated drinking water.

Watches and Warnings

The first, and most important way to prepare for flooding is to stay aware of the weather. Common senses tells us that: 1) excessive snow in the winter can lead to flooding in the spring as the snow melts, and 2) if it rains a lot up-stream, then people downstream can expect that excess water to come their way, especially if it's raining downstream as well. It's important to keep track of the weather forecasts locally and nationally so that you know what to expect. When it comes to flooding there are four terms worth remembering: flood watch, flood warning, flash flood watch, and flash flood warning.

  • Flood Watches and Flash Flood Watches mean that a flash flood or flooding is possible and that people should tune to NOAA Weather radio or to their local radio and TV stations to find out more information. Flash flooding generally occurs very quickly, so there less time to warn people of a flash flood than regular flooding.
  • Flood Warnings and Flash Flood Warnings mean that a flash food or flooding is likely to occur and people should prepare to evacuate to higher ground immediately. Warnings are issued for specific areas and may not affect everyone within broadcast range of the news reports.

Causes of Flooding

Causes of flooding include:

  • rains from tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • any storm surge pushed inland prior to the hurricane or tripical storm making landfall.
  • spring thaw, particularly if the snowfall was greater than normal, or if areas downstream (southern states for instance) get heavy rains just as water from the spring thaw is heading their way.
  • heavy rains over an extremely short period of time or rains that fall for an extended period of time (several days in a row).
  • levees meant to protect against rivers and lakes overflowing their banks, which fail,
  • new development can create conditions that produce flooding. As cities worldwide expand with more and more concrete, they eliminate more and more of the open ground that would normally soak up all the normal rainfall. As a result, all the concrete allows all the rainfall to stay "above ground" and flood the cities and become an urban runoff that must flow down the drainage systems into the streams and rivers. It's more water than the streams and rivers can handle, so the overflow their banks.

River Levees

Most rivers are protected by earthen levees, which are man-made by piling earth up along the cleared river banks, to produce wide-based, artificial embankments that are flat on top and taper to a wider base. During heavy rain periods or periods of heavy spring thaws, sandbags can be stacked on top of the flattened embankments to temporarily increase the height of the embankment. The problem is that rivers carry silt and sediment which gets deposited along the riverbeds, thereby raising the bottom of the river, making it more shallow. Planning and maintenance needs to be ongoing so that rivers can periodically be dredged or widened. This allows the rivers to continually carry off large amounts of water so as to prevent future floods. Levees must also be maintained to prevent catastrophic failures.

Sand Bagging

One of the things people can do to help prevent flooding - especially if they live along rivers or in flood prone areas - is sandbagging. Sandbags - 14 inch wide by 24 to 26 inch long woven polypropylene - are filled slightly more than half full with approximately 35 to 40 pounds of sand, silt or clay. Sandbags mold easily against each other without the need for concrete or other cementing material. Sandbags can be placed against doorways and around the base of buildings and houses to keep flood waters out. They are also used for river levees. However, proper training is required before sandbagging river banks is accomplished. Improperly set sandbags can result in levee breaks. The Army Corps of Engineers has recommendations for proper sandbagging of rivers.

What to Do When Homes and Business Flood

Some recommendations for preparing for and protection from flooding:

1. If you live or own a business in a flood prone area, obtain flood insurance and abide by the policy's flood hazards terms.

2. Put together an emergency preparedness kit (similar to one you might put together for hurricane or tornado preparedness)

3. Create a family communications plan including where you might meet up, what to do if you're separated, and a list of people you could call in case of flooding.

4. Elevate home furnaces, water heaters and electrical panels, especially in high flood risk areas.

5. Install check valves into your home drains.

6. Construct barriers to prevent flooding into homes and businesses.

7. Seal basement walls waterproofing materials.

8. For future construction, don't build on river front property or in high risk areas.

9. If possible, consider moving to less prone to flooding.

Flooding could be eliminated by not living along rivers or in coastal areas. But, since time immemorial, people have placed a great deal of value in living in these areas. In fact the perceived value far exceeds the cost produced by the periodic flooding, so the likelihood of getting people to move inland is an impossible endeavor at best. The best anyone can do is to recommend people prepare against the possibility of flood, and protect themselves as best they can. To get further information on flooding, weather conditions, potential weather threats, preparations for weather events, and help to clean up, repair or rebuild after a major weather event, check out these websites.

The Weather Channel


National Hurricane Center (NHC)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The American Red Cross

The National Weather Service (NWS)


Iowa State University, Sustainable Urban Landscapes. Understanding the Effects of Flooding on Trees.

Nash, Gayelord. The Effects Of Flood Damage On Everyday Life.

Geographical Web Enquiries. River Flooding

Murad, Mohammad. Saudi Gazette. Floods May Have Negative Effect On Environment.

Bratkovitch, Stephen, et al. Flooding and Its Effects on Trees.,cb37a3bb&icp=1&.intl=us&sig=G0VdBMCFD5RYSyb712Huww--

Bomar, George. Texas Weather. University of Texas Press: Austin, 1995.

Science Daily. Levee.

Tulane University. River Flooding.

North Dakota State University. Sandbagging for Flood Protection.

FEMA. Floods.

Wikipedia. Floods.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Daffy Duck profile image

      Daffy Duck 

      6 years ago from Cornelius, Oregon

      This is the perfect time to write a hub like this.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)