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When the water is rising and you hear about “watches” or “warnings,” how worried should you be? What’s the difference between the two? How soon should you begin making preparations to safeguard your property or evacuate your family? Many people aren’t 100% sure of the best answers to those questions.

Do You Have a Weather Radio?

The National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for alerting the public of dangerous weather conditions. You can enter your zip code or city for local weather information and learn about current conditions, hazards and forecasts.

A weather radio would be indispensable in an emergency and should be included with your emergency supplies. The information you’d need to know about local weather conditions and potential dangers is broadcast 24 hours a day from your closest NWS office.

Watch – Prepare

Watches are frequently, but not always, issued before warnings. Flash floods, for example, can occur so quickly that there might not be time to warn anyone in the path of the rushing, fast-rising water.

Normally, a “watch” means flooding is likely in your area, but it’s still possible it might not happen. You might get lucky and not be affected, but the odds aren’t in your favor. It’s time to make your emergency preparations. Every minute is precious. Use this time wisely to gather everything you’d want to bring if you evacuate and to do what you can to protect your home and belongings from water damage.

Warning – Evacuate Now

When the National Weather Service issues a “warning,” flooding is already happening or will be very, very soon. It’s dangerous to wait around to see if the waters reach your home. It’s time to evacuate your home or business.

If you wait too long, rising water could cover your evacuation route, leaving you and your family stranded. Trying to drive through moving water is very, very dangerous and the cause of many deaths. The water could be much deeper than you think it is, but even a foot or two of moving water can carry away a car.

All Floods are Not Alike

  • Slow-Onset: Days or weeks of rain can cause slow-rising floodwaters. It may take months for the waters to recede.
  • Rapid-Onset: Heavy rainfall, especially in mountains or urban areas, can cause water to rise and recede very quickly. Flash floods are a possibility and are particularly dangerous. Any low-lying area such as an underpass, viaduct, parking garage, basement or road could be submerged very quickly.
  • Tropical Storm or Hurricane: Storm surge, water pushed by strong winds, especially when combined with a rising tide, can be catastrophic. High-water levels have been recorded as high as 35 feet above normal levels. Extensive areas could be flooded. Water could rise quickly, in 4-8 hours. It may take a long time before the waters recede.

What to Do First When a Watch is Issued for Possible Flooding

  • Your Family: Talk to the family to ensure everyone knows what to expect and what they need to do.
  • Primary Contact: Establish someone who’s not local, perhaps an out-of-state relative, as the primary contact for everyone to check in with. This is especially useful if someone becomes separated.
  • Stay Informed: Listen to the TV or your weather radio for the latest updates.
  • Prepare to Evacuate: Collect important legal, insurance and other papers, medications, pictures etc. and store in waterproof bags or containers.
  • Check your Emergency Kit: Replace any supplies as needed. Well in advance of an emergency, review this list of emergency supplies and assemble your kit.
  • Know your evacuation route.
  • Shelters: Find out where the local shelters are located. If you have pets, learn which shelters allow pets and any restrictions the shelter may have (pet carriers, pet size limits, etc.).

If You Still Have Time, Safeguard Your Home and Property

FEMA publishes excellent preparedness information.

  • Elevate: Raise critical utilities, such as electrical panels, appliances and heating systems. Move furniture, drapes, area rugs etc. to a higher level.
  • Waterproof: Lay sandbags, waterproof your basement and make sure your sump pump is working. Any fuel tanks should be securely anchored.
  • Clear Debris: Secure or move inside anything outside which could float and become a danger.

Risk Management

A standard homeowner’s policy won’t protect you if you’re flooded. Don’t wait until the water’s at your door, because it will be too late. You can get a quote and buy flood insurance from Neptune in minutes. Save money and get the protection you need today.