How to Stay Safe During Extreme Weather
Hurricanes bring about many emotions for me. You see, I have lived through a large number of them with varying impacts on my life. Here are just a few that trigger some strong emotions in me even after more than 15 years. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit. I was in college at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. What made it so scary was the fire alarm in the middle of it, which caused an evacuation from my dormitory. The wind and rain were so strong you almost couldn’t stand.
The next one that comes to mind is Bertha in in 1996. Bertha was memorable because we purchased our first home the day she hit. If we had stayed in our new home, we would have lost both of our cars due to a tree falling. The worst though came in 1999. That year brought us Dennis in August and Floyd in September. We survived Dennis with a few heavy rains and some minor damage to the neighborhood. However, Floyd hit just 2 weeks later! Again, there was little damage in our area but lots of rain. We cleaned up and prepared for work the next day. What we weren’t prepared for was the National Guard at our door at 4:00 am that next morning telling us to evacuate due to rising flood waters.
Our house had a 100-year and 500-year flood plain area that reached to the middle of our backyard. We thought we were safe. After all, Hurricane Floyd was gone. Due to the combined rain amounts from Dennis and Floyd, there was massive flooding. This was not storm surge. This was FLOODING. There was simply nowhere for the water to go. Our entire house was surrounded by water that came in overnight as we slept. Luckily, we got out with our pet and vehicles. Friends close to our home allowed us to stay with them. It took weeks for the waters to recede, the bridges to reopen, and for us to be able to leave the county in which we lived.
During that time, we were constantly told by the Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local news organizations not to go into the flood waters or areas impacted by the water. Here are some of the reasons why:
Dangers of Flood Water
- The waters are often swift moving and despite the ability to swim can often be too strong and fast. Even 6 inches of water can force you to lose your balance and fall.
- The water may be electrically charged due to underground or downed power lines.
- Flood waters contain debris which may not be visible such as sharp objects such as broken glass and pieces of sidewalks/roadways/buildings.
- Flood water contains contamination from such things as raw sewage (human and animal), gasoline, pesticides, and other chemicals.
- Flood waters may contain or spread infectious diseases including those that cause intestinal problems, upset stomach, and skin infections.
- The water may contain displaced animals such as fire ants, snakes, and other wild animals.
- Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can carry Zika or West Nile Virus.
- Water can cause mold growth in carpeting, insulation, and dry wall of homes.
Flood Information Websites
- National Weather Service Flood Safety: http://www.floodsafety.noaa.gov/
- Red Cross Flood Safety: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/flood
- CDC Flood Safety Tips: https://www.cdc.gov/features/flood-safety/index.html
- Ready Check: https://www.ready.gov/floods
Exposure to the floodwaters and their aftermath is often unavoidable. Always keep yourself and family safe. Never return to a place that has been flooded unless you are told it is OK. No piece of furniture, car or paperwork is worth your life. Trust me, I know, understand and wish you the best.