How to prepare for flash floods
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Flash flooding can have a very sudden onset.
If soils, creeks and rivers are full, a sudden intense storm can create fast, dangerous run-off flooding within 15 minutes of the storm beginning.
In the video below, people parked their cars in the ciy's CBD as they did each morning. A storm shortly after midday created fast, dangerous flow in the two creeks which meet in the CBD. Low-lying carparks beside the creeks were suddenly innundated and more than 800 cars were swept away. Several adults and children were swept away. A woman and her son were killed.
Chalk Drive, Toowoomba CBD. January 10, 2011
It is important to keep up with a developing emergency emergency. If electricity supplies are affected, you will need a battery-powered radio. Putting this in a waterproof plastic bag is useful, especially if you are outdoors.
If you need to leave your house, or are ordered to leave your house by authorities, you will need personal items – food, water, medication, mobile phone, radio, warm clothes and a waterproof list of emergency phone numbers. Pack these in a waterproof plastic carrybag. A waterproof torch with spare batteries in case you need to signal for help, eg if you are trapped on your roof or in a boat.
- A ladder to enable people to quickly climb to the roof of your house can be a life-saving investment.
- Lifejackets for all members of the family, especially babies, children and non-swimming adults.
- A coil of rope
- Bottled water and
- Imperishable food in a waterproof container.
Flash flooding kills about 5,000 people per year around the globe and are the most deadly type of natural disaster.
Being prepared ahead of time is critical because once extreme rainfall and swift run-off begin, you must be ready with emergency communications and be self-sufficient with your own supplies such as medications, water and food.The following equipment items may help you and your family to survive a flash flood:
Internet-linked mobile phone in a waterproof plastic bag to be able to contact people and/or emergency services and to monitor websites for the latest information.
Local knowledge of waterways
In a flash flood emergency, causeways, bridges and roads may become submerged. If travelling, especially at night, be alert for creeks and rivers that might have risen suddenly. Be prepared by learning about your local waterways:
• Know the location of the nearest gullies, creeks and rivers, and the minor, moderate and major flood heights at local gauges
• Know the Bureau of Meteorology district in which you are located
• Know how to monitor the Bureau of Meteorology website radar, rainfall and creek gauges online.
• Know weatherproof roads to reach higher ground
• Know the location of your nearest council evacuation point.
Precautions and preparations to protect life
Flash floods can cause a lot of property damage however the damage which can't be repaired is the loss of life. Do not risk your life (or anyone else's life) to try to save property. Ensure you and your family are as safe as possible. These tips may help:
• Identify high ground and the safest available route
• Work out and agree on ‘stay or go’ conditions appropriate for your family. e.g. non-swimmers, risk of isolation by road or creek, children/elderly/ill etc.
• Evacuate early as a precaution if you have children, babies, elderly, ill or infirm family members
• Prepare to evacuate to the roof if necessary (e.g. via a ladder)
• Keep your mobile phones charged
• Ensure vehicles have fuel
• Ensure family and neighbours are aware of potential risks
• Ensure you can leave the house via a window/s in an emergency to climb to the roof
• If evacuating, turn off power, water and gas
• Let others know where you are or where you intend to go
• Plan what you will do with your pets – they cannot be carried in rescue helicopters
• Avoid entering floodwaters. If you must, wear solid shoes and check depth and current with a stick.
Precautions to protect property
Once lives in your family are safe, consider the protection of property - your house, vehicles etc.
• Ensure local gullies and creeks are clear of debris
• Ensure important documents are stored well above the potential flood zone
• Ensure vehicles are stored well above the potential flood zone – do not attempt to move vehicles through floodwater
• Store all loose items, both outdoors and indoors
• Secure and sandbag doors
• Sandbag toilets to prevent sewage backflow into your house
• Tape windows to reduce the risk of them shattering
• Check your home and contents insurance policy – does it cover you for flooding and flash flooding? Does it include an allowance for clean-up and debris removal?
• Check your car insurance policy – are you covered for an agreed value?
For more information . . .
See my other hubs relating to flash flooding:
A flash flood disaster in January 2011 struck in south east Queensland in Australia. The following videos show some of the destruction in the rural district of Spring Bluff, the town of Murphys Creek, and the city of Toowoomba. Floodwaters flowing down the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range then began to converge on rural districts and towns in the Lockyer Valley.
The water from Toowoomba flowed to the west, striking Oakey and Dalby and moving down the Murray-Darling Catchment towards Adelaide.
Over the following days, the floodwaters struck the larger cities of Ipswich and Brisbane.