Thoughts On Flooding

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Flooding is one of the hardest things for which to prepare. Unless it is something like your basement flooding because of drainage issues, there is little practical about it.

In my case, where I rent does have flooding of the basement because of issues with sewer drains and lines that are headed towards being a century old. Clay pipe has a useful life, and it is long past. Short-term solution is sump pumps to divert the rain water elsewhere. Really need to add a battery backup to that, but that is up the landlord. FYI, at great expense, the landlord replaced the pipes and such out to the property line. It’s from there to the sewer that the problems lie, and that means lawyers and a huge amount of expense.

In watching what is hitting California, and the hurricane(s) in Florida last year, a few quick thoughts to share this morning. The quickest and easiest way to avoid flooding is to not move onto a flood plain. That may not always be possible because of circumstances, but it really is the only way to avoid the issue.

If you can’t avoid it, look at how often the area floods. If it is every year, no. Don’t care how good the deal, it’s not worth it. If it is subject to 10, 20, or 100 year floods, the roll of the dice is up to you. It may be possible to find a place where through creative landscaping, you can reduce your risk. Or, you may can find a place where you can use sandbags over a limited arc to prevent flooding.

If you have to encircle your entire home, it’s not good. It is, in fact, a massive amount of work that may not work as well as you need it to. The higher you need the wall to go, the wider it needs to be at the base to be water resistant and to support the weight of the wall. And you are going to need pumps to handle what does come through. You will also need to have a way to shut off your sewer as water can and will come in and flood you via that system. For all that cities are supposed to have backflow prevention, they often don’t or it fails under the load.

If it is recommended (or required) that you evacuate, do it. Grab your bugout bags, if there is time grab some important things, but get out. It’s like evacuating for a wildfire: your life is worth more than even extremely sentimental possessions. If you don’t, or the flooding happens too fast, if you have an upstairs, move as much up as possible. If not, make sure you have access to the attic and a way to cut a hole in the roof so you can get out. I will suggest that if floods are frequent and of a surrounding nature, you might want to invest in a life raft as it’s a better option than drowning.

Which brings up another point. For the love of all that is Holy, DO NOT WALK OR DRIVE INTO FLOOD WATERS!

When walking, you don’t know what’s below, and drains are a great way to get you or your children sucked down to drown. You can get hurt other ways as well. If you watch them in action, you will note that rescue crews are very careful when they have to walk in flood waters, and even in shallow water they are inclined to use boats. You should be paying attention to that.

When driving, you are going to be (often briefly) surprised at the power of the water to take your vehicle where it wants to rather than to where you wanted to go. The bridge that used to be there may no longer be there. There are other hazards as well, and even if you are in the biggest most badass military truck there is, the water will win if you fight it. Notice how rescue convoys operate in flood waters and learn from it. We lose more people than we should each year to this bit of idiocy.

The smart thing to do is, unless absolutely a matter of life and death, don’t get out in or on floodwaters.

Just a few quick thoughts to share on the one thing for which there is very limited practical preparedness.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts On Flooding”

  1. If you routinely drive somewhere that is prone to minor flooding it is possible to practice some “stealth avoidance.”

    Determine exactly your vehicle’s “water depth limit;” this is not “how deep can I drive through” but “at what depth is vehicle operation compromised to a degree that is hazardous.” That number will be lower, often by quite a bit, than the “drive through depth” number and it includes adding in the effect of moving water.

    When the area is dry find a vertical structure – lamp post, fence post, tree, etc. – and mark a depth identifier on it. A manila folder with a 1.5″ hole cut in it makes a reasonable stencil, and a can of outdoor whte spray paint (or other color providing contrast with the vertical object). A single “dot” on the vertical structure will tell you whether you can drive through – if the water level is below the dot, go ahead; at or above the dot it’s “no go.” The odds are good that no one will notice the dot, or if they do will assume it’s something a utility put there.

    What this does not tell you is velocity of moving water; a reasonable rule of thumb is if the water is moving slowly (4 mph) your “OK depth” goes to zero because even at “half depth” there is a lot more force behind that moving water than most people have experienced, at least “experienced more than once….”

    That funny round arm rest in front of the driver’s seat also controls the direction of the vehicle, and judiciously employed in conjunction with the brake pedal and reverse gear can keep the butt in the driver’s seat dry and unpuckered.

    1. LOL, and well said! I’ve actually driven cars and trucks through actual fords, and it is amazing the force moving water can and does exert on a vehicle. It can even be “just” a stream, it’s still powerful. Best option always is to use “that funny round arm rest” to steer in a safe direction. Love that phrase.

  2. Not living in a flood plain is a good idea, but it isn’t always practical and alternatives (e.g. potential for fires/landslides) may be worse. Plus there are flood plains and flood plains. And there’s government actions and inactions.

    I have lived in a flood plain before and that one – in San Jose – was one that we only stayed dry thanks to luck or similar because as was discovered later California did a remarkably poor job of maintaining the levees on the creek nearby but (fortunately for us) the storms that occurred when we were there were not enough for them to fail. Having said that, the house we lived in there was a townhouse with little of great importance other than the garage and washer/dryer on the ground floor. Sure if water had got in it would have been nasty but we’d be alive and most of our possessions fine.

    I live in one today – in Japan – and I’m a lot more confident that the large levees and pumping stations protecting us from floods here will work fine. Besides the plain is extensive and the drainage basin of the rivers in question relatively small so the chances of a flood that was large enough to do more than turn us into an island are very small.

    But it’s not just competence in maintaining things that you have to be aware of. In the UK the government decided on idiot rewilding ideas that made a number of previously perfectly fine flood control systems fail in recent years. The greenies tried to blame it all on glowball worming, but it was pretty clear that the amount of rainfall that led to various floods was not at all unprecendented and the systems would have been fine if the flood control features had not been tampered with to “restore nature”

  3. First up. You can evaluate your location, or prospective location, at
    Used it quite a bit this year, looking for a place to retire to. For instance, Alexandria LA is basically a “don’t even think about it”. (I already knew that.)
    (FYI I ended up near Lake Livingston in TX.)
    About crossing flooded areas: About ten years ago I got caught in a deluge in Alvin, TX, and the thing that nearly got me was how fast water can rise in a flood. Coming up to a particular intersection, at a hundred yards the water appeared to be just above curb depth, so 8-10″. I’m driving an F150, so no biggie. Just slow down, nice and easy. (A main drainage canal crossed under the intersection, BTW.)
    When I got into the water it was bumper height and rising. OH CRAP and just keep moving. By the time I crossed out of the intersection, water was coming over the hood. Just keep going, stay behind the bow wave, no stopping now.
    Slowly climbed out the other side, found a parking lot to pull into and let the water drain out of the bed of the truck. I to this day do not know how I made it out. No water in the cab, or in anything mechanical.
    This led me to rethink living near the coast at retirement.

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