The US has suffered badly from flash flooding in recent weeks … and it’s only going to get worse.
President Joe Biden has just spoken out on the subject and although the talk this summer is about the excessive heat, the US is also suffering badly from flash floods. When it rains in summer it rains incredibly hard with properties quickly swamped by floodwater and badly damaged. Many areas in the US are all too aware of the dangers of powerful thunderstorms.
President Biden made it clear by stating: “I don't think anybody can deny the impact of climate change anymore.”
In recent days flash floods hitting large parts of the country have caused devastation and countless millions of dollars damage including Vermont, New York State, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and East Tennessee. Hardly a day goes by all year round where some part of the US is suffering from flooding.
Water damage inside homes and businesses in the USA is costing insurance companies $13bn a year … with the average claim around $7,000.
Water damage is the most common claim in the industry yet many Americans still don’t even have flood insurance so it makes it even more vital they are prepared for flooding 24/7.
What causes flash flooding?
Flash flooding can come from torrential downpours or from severely overflowing rivers.
A sudden and very powerful deluge of rain which some would describe as a cloudburst can drop thousands of tonnes of water on an area in just minutes and, basically, the ground it lands on simply can’t cope with that huge amount of water suddenly falling on it.
Flash flooding – which can often happen during thunderstorms - is often caused when ground is either bone hard dry or already saturated with rain so the millions of gallons of water falling on it can’t soak in.
It’s made worse by the fact that every year more green spaces are built over to provide more homes and parking spaces for cars.
Add in the possibility that drains and gullies have not been cleared out and severe flooding can quickly escalate into a disaster.
Although officially defined as floods that can happen within six hours of heavy rain, flash floods usually happen within minutes of a torrential downpour, giving people very little time to react to get flood defences in place.
How to prevent flash flooding or mitigate the damage
The National Weather Center in the USA says people need to be always prepared to prevent flooding or mitigate the potential damage as flash floods happen so quickly.
It states: “Sometimes floods develop slowly and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen. Often times flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.
“If you have access to sandbags or other materials use them to protect your home from flood waters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you think.”
This is why many Americans now use FloodSax ‘sandless’ sandbags which are a flexible alternative to traditional sandbags that are, unlike traditional sandbags, space-saving to store and quick and easy to deploy.
They are vacuum-packed and when unwrapped are very flat with a large surface area but when FloodSax are immersed in water they absorb 20 litres which transforms them from being as light as a pillowcase to being more effective than traditional sandbags in around five minutes. If built correctly into temporary anti-flood barriers they are tough enough to hold back floodwater caused by torrential rain.
But FloodSax are far more than instant sandless sandbags.
In their dry state they are super-absorbent and with their large surface area are highly effective at soaking up drips, leaks, spills and floods inside homes and businesses, especially in hard-to-reach places such as beneath pipes, radiators, sinks and boilers.
Almost 3 million have now been sold worldwide, many in the US.
Why is flash flooding so dangerous?
Flash flooding is dangerous mainly because it happens so quickly no-one has time to prepare flood defences unless they already have them in their homes or businesses and can deploy them immediately.
It means there is very little time to put out any effective warnings.
Flash floods are dangerous because only 6 inches of water is enough to knock a person off their feet. Just 12 inches is enough to move a car and if it goes above 18 inches then that’s powerful enough to sweep a larger vehicle away.
People underestimate the weight and power of water but if you just fill a bucket up and carry it then that’s heavy enough. Flash floods involve millions of gallons of water moving rapidly so the destructive power of a flash flood is immense.
The other danger is that flash floods are filled with debris and all kinds of hidden hazards being swept along beneath the water surface. You just don’t know what is being carried swiftly out of sight in the water such as branches and stones which could cause serious injury.
So, the simple advice is to get up to higher ground away from flash floods as quickly as possible and never try to drive through a flood as it could end up with you losing your vehicle or even worse, your life.
Everyone is responsible for their own flood protection at all times.