Hazards and Threats


Flood Waters

Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters -- except fire. Most communities in the United States have experienced some kind of flooding, after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms, winter snow thaws, unusual rise of lakes, or surge of oceans and seas as a result of hurricanes or tsunamis.

Floods can be slow rising, especially in areas of broad expanses of flat land, where rains make their way down river, causing overflow of the banks and backflow into feeder streams. They can rise rapidly - in the mountains, at the foot of mountain streams, and during a storm surge.  Just as waters may rise rapidly or slowly, the flow of floodwater may be fast or slow. If you are faced with fighting floods or trying to prevent future damage, you need to know what type of flooding occurs in your area. 

Floods have impacts on agriculture (land, crops, harvests), and the built environment (homes and offices). Because of these physical impacts, there is a secondary impact on mental health, as well as family and business finances. Impacts can be reduced by Extension education immediately before, after and between floods.

Flooding is responsible for more deaths each year than lightning or tornadoes. The national average in annual property damages from flooding is more than $5 billion. Did you know that Alabama is susceptible to flooding in every month of the year?

What can you do to be prepared?

  • Find out if you are in a high, medium or low flood risk area.
  • Develop an evacuation plan, and discuss it with your family.
  • Know alternate routes if you encounter a flooded road—remember the National Weather Service’s advice: Turn Around Don’t Drown.
  • Move to higher ground away from low-lying areas, storm drains, and stream beds.
  • Do not return to flooded areas until you have received an all-clear from authorities.
  • Never drive across flooded roadways or around barricades.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

What should you do after the storm?

  • Remain calm and locate your emergency supply kit.
  • Treat injuries you or others around you suffered during the event.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves, and gloves when inspecting your home or business or when handling debris.
  • Do not light matches, burn candles, or turn on electrical switches if you suspect damage to your home or business.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects touching downed lines. Keep children and pets at a safe distance.  Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
  • Shut off the electrical system at the main circuit switch if you find frayed wiring or sparks or if you detect a burning odor.
  • Turn off the main gas valve if you smell gas or suspect a leak. Open all windows, and leave the house immediately.

Information on topics ranging from preparing for flooding to risk management is available on eXtension. Other resources you may find helpful: