Spring Brings Floods; How to Prepare Your Home

Predictions in January declared we’re in for a longer winter this year, with more snow. But recent warmer temperatures clash with this notion: rather than snow, we’ve seen heavy rains and flooding in many parts of the U.S.

Thanks to Winter Storm Jonas, this winter has seen several feet of precipitation in areas that are accustomed to receiving only a few inches. Then, during an unexpected heat wave, snow pack on the mountains and in towns ill-equipped for heavy snowfall melted all at once.

The result was mass flooding as rivers and dams overflowed.

Floods Hit Nevada and Northern California

Flood warnings were in effect in Northern California due to the melting mountain snow and anticipated runoff in the area. Along with the runoff, heavy rains occurred throughout the Sacramento area.

“A lot of places on the upper Sacramento River Basin are near or above flood stage,” Hannah Chandler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Sacramento Bee. “Those are looking to peak … and then drop below flood stage, but then there is another storm coming.”

In just a 24-hour period, some areas in Sacramento and north of the city had received more than two inches of rain, which was enough to cause flash floods.

The same problem developed in the Sierra Nevadas: the mountain range in the northwest part of Nevada that borders California. Snow fell at an elevation of 7,000 feet, but the warmer temperatures caused heavy rainfalls to melt just about all the snow in the mountains.

The snowmelt rushed down onto roadways and towns between California and Nevada. Mudslides closed highways, water gushed across highways, and reservoirs filled with the unusual amounts of water.

Residents and travelers were warned to stay away from Tahoe, Sierra Nevada, and all surrounding areas.

Flooding Across the Entire Northwest

Extra precipitation has blanketed the Northwest. Weiser, Idaho also experienced massive flooding and avalanches. Several homes have been washed out and evacuations have been ordered in many small towns and surrounding areas.

The state even called in the National Guard to help rescue affected residents and aid in damage control. This story isn’t unique to northwestern regions as the rapidly melting snow threatens houses, towns, and attractions.

Washington State, Utah, Montana, and northeast Nevada have all been victimized by the unusual snowfall, precipitation, and warm temperatures.

Prepare for the Flood

The northwestern corner of the U.S. has been advised to prepare for flooding, especially in the areas located near the mountains or large bodies of water. Homeowners, landlords, and businesses are advised to do certain things to prepare for the wave of moisture coming their way.

  • Be Safe: Practice general safety tips during the flooding. Avoid walking through flood waters that may be deeper than they appear or might carry an electric current. Remember that just six inches of moving water can knock you down and two feet can sweep your vehicle away, so don’t press your luck.
  • Have an Exit Strategy: Each family member should pack a go-bag in case you need to leave in a hurry. Have a predefined safe point on higher ground where you and your family will meet in the event of a flood. If you have a friend or family member who lives out of flood range, arrange to stay with them until it’s safe to return home.
  • Get Your House in Order: Modern homes are designed to have simple flood-safe ledges and weather stripping that will prevent water damage in a small flash flood. However, older homes may not have the same features. Make these improvements sooner rather than later. You never know when disaster could strike.
  • Tune in to Radio: Pay attention to the weather. If there’s an advisory not to travel due to flooding or possible stormy conditions, listen and absorb the details. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.