Last September, major flooding in Georgia damaged more than 20,000 homes, businesses and other buildings and caused more than $500 million worth of damage.
Forty-six counties across the state were declared federal disaster areas as a result.
“Here in Barrow County we had flooding as well with homes and roads being damaged,” said Barrow County Emergency Services public information officer Lt. Scott Dakin. “Since then, the waterways in Barrow and around Georgia have stayed high with lots of rain throughout the fall and winter.”
Due to the continued threat of flooding from already swollen creeks and rivers, Barrow County Emergency Services is joining with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) in declaring the week of March 15-19 as Flood Safety Awareness Week.
The number one weather related killer in America, floods can occur during spring rains or heavy thunderstorms. Floods may occur very quickly, but generally develop over several days. Flash floods can occur with little or no warning. They are the result of intense storms that drop large quantities of water in a very short time period and can reach full peak in only a few minutes.
During Flood Safety Awareness Week, emergency services personnel ask all citizens to take steps in order to be prepared for flooding.
These steps include:
• knowing what the flood risk is in your area.
• preparing a ready kit of emergency supplies and a portable ready kit in the event of evacuations.
• taking steps to reduce the potential for flood damage in your home by raising your furnace, water heater and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded. In the event of an evacuation, move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
• planning and practicing flood evacuation routes. Know safe routes from home, work and school that are on higher ground. Do not forget to include pets in your disaster preparations.
• staying alert to the possibility of flooding especially if it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days.
• monitoring local radio stations, TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio for flood information.
• following the instructions of local officials. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Do not drive around barricades and never drive through standing water. It only takes two feet of water to float a full-sized automobile.
• moving to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains.
• staying out of floodwaters if possible. The water may be contaminated or electrically charged. However, if your car stalls in rapidly rising waters get out immediately and seek higher ground.
• staying away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of electric shock or electrocution.
• staying away from your home until local authorities say it is safe. Even after floodwaters recede, roads and bridges may be weakened and could collapse. Buildings may be unstable, and drinking water may be contaminated. Use common sense and exercise caution.
As with any disaster, the better prepared every citizen is, the less damage, injuries and death will result.
“If every one of us in Barrow County becomes better prepared we will have better results when flooding happens,” Dakin said. “This will result in lower injury and deaths as well as lower property damage. It is always better to spend a few hours of preparation now than to wish you had later.”
For more information on preparedness, go to the GEMA-Ready Georgia website at www.ready.ga.gov and click the prepare tab.
“The information on their website will help you not only in flooding but in any disaster,” said Dakin. “Their aim is to prepare every Georgia citizen for self sufficiency for seventy two hours following an emergency.”