5 ways to prepare for spring flooding (Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI) March 26, 2010 By Megan Schmidt Holland, Michigan
While weather forecasters say this spring probably won’t be as wet as the past two years, it’s still best to be prepared for the worst.
“Mother Nature always proves us wrong,” Mark Walton, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, said. “The flooding Holland had the past two years, those were pretty unusual, pretty extreme events. It’s rather unusual to get hit back to back with that intensity of rainfall in pretty much the same location.”
In the past 20 years, four of 14 presidentially-declared disasters were for flooding events in Michigan, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Last June, spring floods caused a total $40 million in damages in Ottawa and Allegan counties, after 6.3 inches of rain hit the Holland area in just a few hours.
“This system kind of just sat there and dumped a whole bunch of rainfall on the Holland area,” Walton said. “When you have a very ‘juicy’ system that has a lot of moisture in it, it usually moves out of the area quickly. Even though this one stayed in the area only a couple hours, it was enough to do some damage.”
The year before, a June thunderstorm dumped more than five inches of rain in some areas along the lakeshore. Flooding and washed out roads were blamed for several deaths.
Walton said it’s difficult to predict a major rainfall event very far in advance -”you probably have around a day or so” - so it’s best to always be ready.
The following flood prevention tips were compiled from ready.gov, floodsmart.gov, noaawatch.gov, ottawaredcross.org and mcswa.org:
Buy flood insurance
Having homeowners insurance does not mean you are covered for a flood.
“It is not covered. You have to buy it separately. It’s really that simple,”
John O’Brien, a Hudsonville insurance agent, said.
Keep in mind that your flood insurance policy must be in place 30 days before any flooding even occurs, he said. And if someone says you don’t need flood insurance, get a second opinion, O’Brien suggested. “Any insurance agent who tells you that you’re not in a flood zone in Ottawa or Allegan county, frankly, you should run away,” he said. “You should go somewhere else.”
You can rate your flood risk by entering your address at www.floodsmart.gov.
Prepare your home
Make an itemized list of personal property. Photograph the interior and exterior of your home. Store the list, photos and documents in a safe place. Elevate your furnace, air conditioning unit, water heater and electric panel if you can. Any electrical system component can be easily damaged by floodwaters.
Put a sump pump in your basement to keep groundwater out of your home. Place utilities such as washers and dryers on cinder blocks to raise them off the ground. Cut drywall so it is one-half to one inch off the floor, especially if it’s in your basement. Concrete floors tend to absorb ground moisture, which can wick up the wallboard if it’s touching the floor, causing mold.
Install sewer backflow valves to prevent sanitary sewer lines from backing up in your drain pipes, which creates a health hazard. This type of installation is a job best left to a professional plumber.
Prepare emergency supplies
It’s a good idea to put together a kit containing the most essential items in case you need to leave home quickly, or if parts of your home become inaccessible or damaged.
Some suggestions from the American Red Cross: first-aid kit, canned food and a can opener, supply of prescription medicines, bottled water, batteries, flashlight, rubber boots and gloves, emergency cooking supplies, battery-operated radio and extra clothing.
Keep the kit somewhere that is most likely to be accessible in an emergency.
Consider a portable kit for your car, too. If you have a safe place for them, keep sandbags, plastic sheets and lumber on hand, too.
Have a family disaster plan
Keep emergency numbers posted by the phone and teach younger children to dial 911. Have at least one out-of-state friend or relative as an emergency contact.
Plan and practice a flood evacuation route, considering a few routes from work and school that are on higher ground in case some roads are flooded. Never attempt to drive over a flooded road.
Consider what you’ll do with pets. The American Red Cross of Ottawa County can help assist with finding care or temporary shelter for pets in emergencies, the chapter’s coordinator Robert Brooks said.
“That’s something I know can be common for people to overlook,” he said.
Know where to seek flood updates. Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s flood outlook page at www.noaawatch.gov/floods.php for flood watches and warnings across the country.