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April 14, 2011 Volume 32, No. 27

Preparing for spring floods


Most flood-related deaths occur on the highway

With the large snowfalls of the past winter, flooding is a potential threat in many parts of Missouri. And while your house may not be in a flood plain, most flood-related deaths occur on the road, when people try to drive through moving water.

Georgia Stuart-Simmons, a University of Missouri Extension community development specialist, said Missouri creeks and rivers can rise very rapidly, or the road bottom could wash away, making the water much deeper than it appears.

“Most cars will float—and be swept away—in 18-24 inches of moving water,” said “Trucks and SUVs are not much better, with only 6-12 more inches of clearance.”

Once cars are swept downstream, they will often roll to one side or even flip over entirely. The driver has only a few seconds to escape. “Many drivers panic as soon as the vehicle submerges and are found later with their seat belt still fastened,” she said. “Never, NEVER try to drive through moving water.”

To be alert to the possibility of a flood. Stay tuned to local radio or TV stations. A flood watch means a flood is possible in your area. If a flood watch is issued for your area, move valuables to higher floors.

A flood warning means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. Keep a full tank of gas in your car in case an evacuation notice is issued. When flooding is imminent, move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades. They are there for your safety.

No matter what type of emergency you may face, it’s important to have a disaster supply kit. If flooding cuts you off from supply sources, you might need:

  • First-aid kit and essential medications.
  • Canned food and can opener.
  • At least three gallons of water per person.
  • Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.
  • Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you’ll need a professional to turn them back on.)

“You will also need to know where to go if told to evacuate,” Stuart-Simmons said. “Choose several places — a friend’s home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.”