The old adage March comes in like a lion seems to be holding true for our region this year. Pennsylvania continued to get slammed with record low temperatures as well as treacherous snow and freezing rain storms. Spring is just days away and although we’d like to think March will go out “like a lamb,” the shift to milder temps and rain bring with it the potential for damaging flooding.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS) in 2013, there were 82 flood fatalities in the Unities States and flooding caused more than $2 billion in damage.
In Eastern Pennsylvania, some of the most common reasons for flooding include:
- River flooding along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers
- Flash flooding along many of the smaller tributaries
- Snow melt and ice jams
Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States, however not all floods are alike. Some floods develop slowly, while others, such as flash floods, can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain. Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam.
According to the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, floods are the most prevalent type of natural disaster occurring in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Floods–seasonal or flash–have been the cause of millions of dollars in annual property damages, loss of lives, and disruption of economic activities. In Pennsylvania, floods cause over $1 billion worth of property damage annually. Over 94 percent of Pennsylvania’s municipalities, including Philadelphia, have been designated as flood prone.
The greatest flood on record in Philadelphia was the August 1955 flood associated with Hurricane Diane which was estimated to have a 0.33 percent chance of occurring in any one year, or once in 300 years. Diane hit Philadelphia with 30 mph winds and 6-12 inches of rain. The Delaware River flooded to record levels in the North and Northeast coastal region of Philadelphia and caused $4.2 billion in damages to Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. Within the flood vulnerable areas of Philadelphia, it is expected that the frequency and likeliness of flooding will remain the same from what Philadelphia has experienced in the past. However, some increase in the severity and frequency of flooding may result due to planned or recent development within the floodplains of the various streams.
Flood Safety Awareness Week is March 15-21, 2015!
Our Lutheran Disaster Response-Eastern PA, along with The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Ready Campaign and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) encourage you to learn what hazards may impact you and take action by making a disaster preparedness kit and having a plan.
- Build an emergency kit.
- Make a family communications plan.
- Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
Know the terms to understand floor hazard
- Flood Warning – Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Flash Flood Warning – A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
If you are driving
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground, when water is not moving or not more than a few inches deep. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly. If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
- Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
- A foot of water will float many vehicles.
- Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
- Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
Make an Emergency Plan
- Identify three places to meet family and friends in the event of an emergency. One in your neighborhood, one in your town, and one out of town.
- Learn how you will get to your out of town location; determine your evacuation routes.
- Write down information on important locations like workplaces, schools, daycares, houses of worship, etc.
- Make sure you take into account everyone’s needs, such as any medical concerns, communications, etc.
- Know how you will learn important information after a disaster (radio, warning sirens, reverse 911, etc.).
- Share contact information with everyone (friends, family, and out of town contacts).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Ready Campaign and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are excellent sources for more information about flooding preparedness and response.