Most of the time, storms come and go leaving a damp, even soggy, landscape in their wake. But some storms seem to linger, and others leave their mark. Luckily, there are ways to limit the damage caused by extreme weather.
Heavy rain can create its own set of problems…namely, flooding. As a professional storm chaser, I’ve see the damage flooding can cause and the speed with which a heavy storm can cause severe flooding. Maybe you can benefit from my experience and the helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way.
One of the biggest culprits of property damage I’ve witnessed in my time as storm chaser is water. It starts in the form of what appears to be harmless rain, BUT it can quickly morph into a powerful flood. Flood waters can be creeping, unrelenting rising waters, but can also take the form of an unpredictable flash flood. I’ve seen my share of both kinds of flooding while covering storms like Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Katrina (heck, I saw my own car float away in a flood), and while it’s not always predictable when a flood will happen, there are some things you can do to help make sure your home and family stay safe.
Plan. Consider the area in which you live and study a flood hazard map for your region from reliable governmental outlets like the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website and Ready.gov. Those maps can tell you what sort of risk your area is to flooding, but I suggest you go further and develop a family flood plan. This plan will come in handy if/when your family is not all together when a storm or flood strikes and can help focus your family members in advance regarding:
Prepare. Consider protecting your home’s vital systems like the furnace, water heater and electricity panel, if possible. Become familiar with the location of these items and explore your options with regard to safeguarding their functionality. Maybe you can elevate some of the items by stacking bricks underneath, or insulate them from wet walls with waterproof materials.
I know that removing these systems from harm’s way is often not possible, so consider asking a licensed electrician, HVAC professional or even plumber about how best to protect your home’s vitals. A common water entry point is through municipal sewer lines, so it’s a good idea to have a plumber install a backwater valve. This one-way valve will shut in the event it senses water flowing the wrong way, preventing any backflow from reaching your home. It is important to note that some policies require an endorsement to cover damages resulting from water back-up, up to a specified amount for damages. Be sure to discuss this coverage with your insurance agent.
Prevent. One of the best lines of defense in limiting excessive flooding and damage includes the tried-and-true method of using sandbags (often provided by your local emergency relief organization) to create a barrier between your house and the water. I know it sounds simple, but blocking and diverting the water through the use of barriers and trenches can mean the difference between water damage and water devastation.
Proceed. After a flood has occurred, knowledge is key to getting back on your feet. Listen for news reports to find out whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink. Avoid wading in flood water, because it can be electrically charged. Do not drive through a flooded road, as the depth of water is not always obvious. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling, and a foot of water will float many vehicles. Also, be aware of areas where flood waters have receded — roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
While utilizing tips like these won’t ensure your home never experiences damage from wind, trees or water during extreme weather, staying informed and being proactive can help limit your losses. As a storm chaser, I understand the risks involved with being face-to-face with an ill-tempered Mother Nature, but I take the proper precautions to avoid as much danger as possible while still bringing viewers up-close-and-personal with the strongest storms. Stay safe!
Bio: Reed Timmer is a meteorologist and storm chaser who starred on the reality show ‘Storm Chasers’ on the Discovery Channel from 2007-2012. He has up-close and personal experience with a number of different types of extreme weather, and here he provides his opinions on how to handle certain situations in an effort to help you limit the potential damage you may incur in a storm. His advice is not meant as the definitive word in safety, but rather, a logical springboard for people to make their own decisions with regard to their particular situation.