While I was researching natural disasters for a report, I wondered which disaster caused the most fatalities in America and the answer was flooding.
Flooding happens almost every day somewhere in the United States, and it does 8 billion dollars’ worth of damage a year, but that can’t be right. It’s flooding and water, how is that more destructive than fires or tornados or hurricanes?
It can happen anywhere
Often, most people underestimate the power of water, because it causes over 140 deaths a year. Flooding can happen anywhere with heavy rainfall and/or a body of water nearby. Even if it’s a small lake it has some potential to overflow after a large storm.
Other time flash floods, backed up sewage lines, and heavy storms put areas that don’t experience floods at risk, and contrary to popular belief floods can happen anywhere and can be very hard to predict. There’s also no guarantee how long they will last, and while some can last a day or even a few hours, others can last a week or longer.
The power of water
Fast-moving floodwaters around six inches deep is enough to knock people off their feet and carry them away, while around two feet will cause a car to float away and lose traction with the road. If a flood does hit the area, I found that staying out of moving water, no matter how shallow it looks is the best way to stay alive.
Keeping away from downed power lines and any electric devices, as well as turning off the power to the house can also help keep the largest causes of fatalities during a flood down, which is electrocution. Often people will unknowingly cross into water lines that have been damaged by water yet still hold all their power.
Most of the fatalities happen when people try to enter or go through fast-moving water and then are swept away by the current. If someone is trapped in water, the best course of rescue is to get help while either pulling them to safety with a rope or other long item or tossing them something to float with.
An attempt to save the victim without proper training or a floatation device like a boat will often result in both the would-be rescuer and the victim both needing help, so don’t try and be a hero unless you can keep both yourself and the person in trouble afloat.
While preparing for a flood by noting evacuation shelters, preparing boxes of supplies, and taking pictures and inventory of the items in your home to prepare for any water damage are all important things to do, I learned that the first key to beating a flood is not to underestimate it.
It’s a dangerous force of nature, and even though water is the key to all life, it can also do some pretty destructive things when it’s angry and roused by a storm. By understanding the danger water causes, we can better understand and stop floods.