The Dangers Of Flash Floods

It can happen in an instant. A little rain turns quickly into a violent flood, and Houston is no stranger to this phenomenon. We experienced massive flash flooding two years in a row — in 2015 and 2016. In June of 2016, Houston had 15 inches of rainfall in a span of 12 hours, and 20 inches a few days later, causing the second 100-year rainstorm in less than a week. But flooding of this magnitude has to be predicted, right? The short answer to that is: no.

The National Weather Service describes a flash flood as “a flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than six hours. Flash floods are usually characterized by raging torrents after heavy rains that rip through river beds, urban streets, or mountain canyons, sweeping everything before them. They can occur within minutes or a few hours of excessive rainfall. They can also occur even if no rain has fallen, for instance after a levee or dam has failed, or after a sudden release of water by a debris or ice jam.

Basically, flash floods happen when rain falls so quickly the ground is unable to soak up the excess water. Although warnings for these types of floods do happen, there is no guarantee when one will or will not hit your area. The most common types of areas to get flash floods are:

Heavy populated areas. Big cities like Houston are very prone to flash floods. Because there are so many buildings, apartments, roads, and highways, there isn’t much ground left to soak up the rainwater. Although most cities have storm drains underground, these drains get filled up with water during a major rainstorm.

Areas near rivers. Any time you live near a river or a large body of water, you are taking the risk of eventually experiencing some type of flood. According to the National Severe Storm Laboratory, “embankments, known as levees, are often built along rivers and are used to prevent high water from flooding bordering land. In 1993, many levees failed along the Mississippi River, resulting in devastating flash floods. The city of New Orleans experienced massive devastating flooding days after Hurricane Katrina came onshore in 2005 due to the failure of levees designed to protect the city.”

Dam failures. Flash flooding can occur naturally, but they can also be man made. There are water dams all over the united states. These dams help to control the water supply, and also help with flood control. But sometimes these dams do not hold up, causing massive amounts of water to spill and flood the surrounding area. A recent dam failure happened in February in Nevada, flooding homes, railroads, and farms.

Because flash floods are unexpected, you should always try and keep your home and office protected. To prepare for a flood, the National Weather Service says:

  • Construct a floodplain around your home if your home is elevated and reinforced.
  • Make sure that your furnace, water heater, and electrical panel are elevated if they are in a room in your home that is likely to flood.
  • If you install check valves in your sewer trap, this can prevent floodwater from backing up your drain.
  • Build barriers in your home. Levees, beams, and flood walls can help prevent floodwater from entering your home.
  • You should use waterproof compounds to seal the foundation in your basement walls.

But sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, you can still get stuck in a flash flood. And if this does happen to you, the National Weather Service recommends the following:

  • If you are in the car, turn around immediately and try to get to higher ground.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flooded areas.
  • Do not drive over bridges that are over fast-moving floodwaters. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridge unstable. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.

After the flood, remember to never walk directly in the floodwater — floodwater is extremely toxic.  Always have a reputable company in mind who you can call to come and fix the flood damage to your home and office. We have worked with businesses all over the United States after floods and hurricanes, and have helped to restore properties back to working condition as quickly as possible. Before the next flash flood, give us a call so we can put a plan in place to restore your business.