Preparing for Flood Season | Types of Flood Alerts & Preventing Floods
Flood Damage

Preparing for Flood Season: Understanding Flood Alerts and Steps to Prevent Flooding

March is Flood Safety Month across the country with many states and cities observing a Flood Safty Week at some time during the month. While you may think flooding only happens in coastal states or near rivers, every state has experienced flooding at least once in the last 24 months. From monsoon flooding in Arizona to river flooding in Ohio to coastal flooding in Virginia, learn the different type of flood alerts and the steps you can take to prevent flooding and limit flood damage.

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Flood Alerts: The Difference Between Flood Watches and Flood Warnings

The National Weather Service (NWS) issues watches and warnings for many severe weather events and floods are no exception. In addition to warnings and watches, there are two additional types of flood alerts the NWS may issue: Flood Advisory and Flash Flood Warning.

Flood Advisory

The National Weather Service will issue a Flood Advisory when forecasted weather conditions have the possibility to cause flooding. This is the lowest type of alert issues for floods. If a Flood Advisory is issued, you should continue to watch for weather reports in your area.

Flood Watch

The National Weather Service will issue a Flood Watch when conditions are favorable for flooding to occur. A watch does not mean floods will happen, just that they are possible. If a Flood Watch is issued, you should be prepared for flooding and review your flood preparation plans.

Flood Warning

If the NWS issues a Flood Warning, severe weather is imminent or happing. Flooding will occur if a Flood Warning is issued. You should be prepared to take action when a Flood Warning is issued. Follow directions given by local authorities, especially if an evacuation order is issued. You may only have a short time to vacate your property.

Flash Flood Warning

Similar to a Flood Warning, a Flash Flood Warning indicates the risk of possible severe and extremely sudden flood conditions. If the NWS issues a Flash Flood Warning, seek high ground immediately. Flash floods can occur in areas not receiving rain. Review our causes of Flash Flood guide for more information.

Steps to Take Before Flood Season Begins

Flood season varies by location, but they are likely to occur any time between March and November.

Prepare an Evacuation Plan

Flooding occurs in every state, but certain areas are prone to severe flooding or flash floods. If you live in lowland areas, near bodies of water, at or near the base of a mountain or hill, or at or below sea level, you should put an evacuation plan in place before flood season begins.

Choose at least two different destinations that are in opposite directions. This gives you alternatives if the storm front blocks your path. Also, have several different routes to each destination so you can avoid flooding and other storm damage. Whenever possible, avoid taking roads that are in low-lying areas or have the potential to flood. Never drive through flood waters, as just 12 inches of water can move a car.

Review Your Insurance Policy

You should review your insurance policy at least once a year so you know what is included in your coverage. If you have questions, contact your insurance agent for a better understanding. In most cases, flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners’ insurance policies.

Consider Adding Separate Flood Insurance

Even if you don’t live in an area prone to flooding, you may want to consider adding separate flood insurance coverage. The cost of a flooded basement can range from $500 to $10,000 or more. However, the national average for flood insurance is only $700 per year. Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). For more information on the NFIP or to sign up, visit

Check Your Landscaping

From the grade of your property to the placement of plants, your landscaping can play a major factor in flood damage. Check the grade around your foundation. Ideally, the soil around your home should slope away for at least 6 feet, but 3 feet is the minimum. Whenever possible, keep at least 6 inches of clear space around your foundation as well. Plant bushes and scrubs at least 2 feet away and tree no closer than 3 feet. Prune trees and plants at least twice a year and remove dead or dying plants as soon as possible.

Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts

You should clean your gutters and downspouts at least twice a year. Clean them more frequently if you live near trees, as the helicopters during the spring and leaves during the fall can quickly clog your gutters. If your gutters get clogged, water will not drain off your roof properly. This can result in water pooling around your foundation, even if you have the correct grade on your landscaping. The more water sitting around your foundation, the greater the chance of flooding.

Inspect the Drainage Around Your Foundation

Gutters and landscaping play a big roll in how water drains around your foundation, but some soils and other conditions are also likely to cause an issue. If the soil around your foundation retains water, you may need to add extensions to your downspouts to improve drainage. The downspout extensions should channel water at least 6 feet away from your foundation. If downspout extensions don’t resolve the issue, you may need to consider other options. Curtain drains, also called French drains, are channels just under the surface of the soil that channel water away. Drain tiles or weeping tiles are similar, but they are installed at the base of your foundation in the ground.

Check Your Basement or Crawlspace

You should check your basement or crawlspace for signs of damage at least twice a year. Keep an eye out for cracks, gaps, efflorescence, or other signs that water might be able to come through the walls. Use hydraulic cement to seal gaps and cracks. If you have efflorescence, a sparkly white powder, on your walls you should consider adding waterproofing. Waterproofing can be applied to the interior or exterior of the walls. Interior waterproofing sealers are less expensive, but also not as effective as exterior waterproofing. If you have windows or vents in your basement, check them as well. Add caulk as necessary to fill gaps and keep them watertight.

Perform Regular Sump Pump Maintenance

If you have a sump pump in your basement or crawlspace, make sure you maintain it regularly to keep it working properly. This includes both cleaning it at least once a year as well as testing it every month or two. To test it, dump a bucket of water into the sump basin and make sure the pump turns on. You should also replace your sump pump approximately every 10 years. Consider adding a backup sump pump if you don’t already have one as well. For more information, review our sump pump maintenance guide.

Properly Store Items In Basements and Crawlspaces

Many people use basements and crawlspaces for additional storage. If you are storing things in your basement, use watertight containers. You should also avoid storing important documents, heirlooms, jewelry, artwork, and other valuable items in the basement. Whenever possible, keep shelving units off the floor or raise the lowest shelf at least 6 inches off the ground. If possible, raise them to 12 inches. Avoid storing cardboard boxes, bags, or other items directly on the floor for long periods of time as well.

Use Your Drains Properly

While this may seem odd, we often take our drains for granted. However, they are really only intended for water and waste. Sending food, fats, oil, grease, coffee grounds, and other solid items down the drain can result in clogs. Even so-called flushable wipes don’t dissolve the same as toilet paper. One item is unlikely to cause an issue, but a build up over time can cause an issue. If the municipal sewers are clogged, a heavy rainstorm or quick thaw can easily cause flooding or a sewage backup.

How to Prevent Water Damage if a Flood Warning is Issued

If a flood warning is issued for your area, there are a few additional steps you can take during the storm to prevent or at least limit water damage from flooding.

  • Limit Water Usage – Heavy rains can easily overwhelm municipal sewers. By limiting the amount of water you use, you decrease the risk of sewage backups and floods. Avoid taking a shower, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, and any other activity that uses a lot of water.
  • Put Laundry Machines on Cinder Blocks – If your washing machine and drier are in the basement, you can put them up on cinder blocks. Cinder blocks are strong, durable, and, most importantly, inexpensive. This helps to limit the chance of damage if there are only a few inches of water in your basement. The same goes for other appliances in your basement.
  • Turn Off the Electricity – Most electrical panels are in the basement and flooding can make accessing them dangerous. By turning off the electricity to the area in advance, you prevent the risk of electrocution. If you have a sump pump, make sure you keep that circuit on.
  • Check Your Sump Pump – If you have a sump pump, check it regularly throughout the storm to ensure it continues to work properly.
  • Clear a Pathway – From the stairs to the areas around your sump pump and utilities, make sure there is a clear path in the basement. If there is a flood, this ensures you can move around safely.
  • Use Sandbags – If you have advanced warning of flooding in your area, consider using sandbags to stop or at least limit the amount of flooding that occurs. Some communities will offer sandbags for free or at a reduced cost for severe storms.

Drying Out After a Flood

In the event that you do have a flood, take the following steps to limit damage and dry out your home. Review our drying our water damage guide for comprehensive instructions on drying out after a flood or water damage. Also, always use caution around electricity and water. Turn off the electricity if water is approaching or above electrical outlets. Contact your local utility company is you cannot safely reach the electrical panel.

  1. Extract Flood Waters – For less than a few inches, soak up water with towels or a mop. For large amounts of water, use a pump to suck the water out or bail water out with a bucket.
  2. Remove Items – From damaged items to furniture and personal possessions, remove everything from the flooded area. Dispose of ruined or damaged items immediately and set other items out to dry.
  3. Dry Out the Area – Begin drying the area as soon as possible. Position fans and dehumidifiers throughout the room to limit drying time. Reposition them as necessary to ensure the shortest drying time possible.
  4. Disinfect and Deodorize – Once the area is dry, use a hospital grade disinfectant to treat against mold, bacteria, and parasites. For odors, sprinkle baking soda throughout the area and allow it to sit for a few hours before vacuuming it up. Repeat as necessary until the odors are neutralized.
  5. Rebuild – If there was damage, you can no begin the rebuilding process. Install new carpeting, drywall, or cabinets. Repaint walls and refinish woodworking.

Call Now for Flood Damage Restoration Services

As the largest network of restoration contractors in the country, Restoration Local has a water damage restoration company near you. Find a water damage company near your now or call 1-888-443-3110 for emergency service. Our local, on-call water damage contractors offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response, and a free estimate on all water removal services.

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