Top tips on what to do during a flood or storm surge

Floods and storm surges possible on the U.S. East Coast this weekend, due to Hurricane Irene. Be aware. Do not walk into or drive into moving water.

Hurricane Irene is expected to bring heavy rains and flooding to the U.S. East Coast this weekend. At this writing (August 27 11 a.m. EDT, or 15 UTC), two to three feet of floodwater is already being reported in the streets of Oriental, North Carolina. Storm surges are possible in many locations. A storm surge is a rise above the normal water level along a shore – the result of strong onshore winds and/or reduced atmospheric pressure. About nine out of ten people killed in hurricanes are victims of a storm surge.

Here is what FEMA says to do in case of flooding due to Hurricane Irene in your area:

– Listen to the radio or television for information.
– Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
– Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.

If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:

– Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
– Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:

– Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
– Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

– Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars and cause 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.

Naguabo, Puerto Rico during Hurricane Irene. (Ricardo Arduengo/AP via Clore Law Group)

For storm information specific to your area in the U.S., including possible inland watches and warnings, please go to your local National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office.

Bottom line: Hurricane Irene is moving up the U.S. East Coast during the weekend of August 27-28, with floods due to heavy rains and storm surges possible. Watch for flooding advisories in your area, but also use common sense. Be aware. Do not walk into or drive into moving water. Go to your local NWS forecast office for local information.

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