Recent Flooding Events and the Lessons You Can Learn From Them
Flooding is a nightmare scenario for many homeowners. While proper home maintenance can help prevent man-made flooding issues, mother nature is more difficult to defend against. Most weather experts agree that the United States is experience changing weather patterns, bringing severe systems across the country. Homeowners everywhere are now experiencing heavy rains, winds and, of course, flooding. Educate yourself about home flooding so that you can understand, prepare, and recover from potentially catastrophic water events. Learn about the efforts you can make on your own, and also when it’s time to call in a professional.
Learning About Home Flooding
2016 has already been a year of floods, and it’s not over yet. Learn more about flooding events around the country, and how these are affecting homeowners. The damage may be done for these flooding victims, but these examples can provide us with important information learned from these experiences. Understanding the impact of flooding can help you prepare your home for severe weather.
Houston, Texas – May and June 2016
Brenham, Texas set a new 24-hour rainfall record this year. Located about 65 miles northwest of downtown Houston, the official reporting station measured 19 inches, while the local water treatment center recorded over 22 inches in a single day on May 26th. These heavy rains set the stage for massive flooding around the area, overwhelming rescue, and construction crews. Local creeks and rivers ran over their banks and into area homes including:
- Brazos River – 4 feet above previous flood record at Richmond, and second highest recorded level near Hempstead
- Spring Creek – 13 feet above previous high crest
- Davidson Creek – set a new record high level
- Colorado River – topped previous crests near Smithville, flooding area homes
Even worse, this single rainstorm didn’t clear up. Over the next few days, residents experienced additional weather events including flash floods in Lubbock and water rescues from flooding in Sachse and the closing of Highway 78. These continued events provide examples of storms that can cause damage with little or no warning, reminding homeowners of the need to prepare in advance. Home maintenance, including guarding against leaks and overflows are key – and don’t forget a handy go-bag for emergency evacuations.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada – June 2016
Sudden and severe thunderstorms rocked Alberta this June. An unstable air mass hovered over Calgary and much of the province causing heavy rainfall. This rainfall then triggered flash floods with water pooling and rushing across roadways and into unfortunate homes. If that wasn’t enough, homeowners also had to dodge hail and severe lightning, with a house even catching fire amid the rain. The weather was severe enough that residents had to deal with both flooding and a tornado warning at the same time this summer, causing concern for both higher and lower ground.
Calgary residents were fortunate, though. Area weather advisors and the city government were able to give residents advance warning of the events, allowing homeowners to prepare. While not all damage can be stopped, this advance notice helped many save valuable possessions and property. If you have time, you may be able to fasten and seal many extra items around your home against wind and rain, preventing additional damage to your property and family.
Louisiana, Mississippi – August 2016
One of the worst weather events so far this year is definitely the floods in and around Louisiana. Called the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy by the Red Cross, thousands of people have lost their homes and possessions. Cars were stranded on highways for days and people lacked vital services across large areas.
6,900,000,000,000 gallons of rain in one week.
$30 million dollars in damages are estimated from this massive rainfall, with levels as high as 31 inches in 15 hours reported. With so much damage, even intact homes had to operate without power and questionable city resources. Stores began to run dry of pre-packed food and fuel.
While no one could predict the extent of damage like this catastrophic flooding, people who live in low-lying or flooding prone areas can prepare advanced emergency kits and do their best to flood-proof their homes. From digging additional drainage channels to creating sandbag walls, there are steps that can help minimize the damage to your home. Learn more about preparing your home for floods with these how-to ideas.
Preparing for Home Flooding
Whether you live in a flood-prone area or simply want to be ready in case of extreme weather events, there are many ways that you can prepare your home for flooding. Start with the basics like simple DIY repairs, or in high-risk areas you may want to consult with a professional. From extreme measures like building a dam around your house to adding sand bags or clearing your drainage, check out these ideas for your home weather checklist.
One Texas man took the weather warnings seriously. Randy Wagner of Rosharon, Texas was worried about reports of extreme rain and flooding on the way in June 2016. To protect his home he purchased on AquaDam online for $8,300. To install the dam as a barrier around his house he had to travel to Louisiana to purchase the item. Assembly required 2 additional men to fill the dam with water and place it around the house, forming a 30 inch by 400-foot barrier.
As 27 inches of rain fell in his area on June 7th, Randy was able to stay high and dry in his home without water damage or flooding. His flooding preparation worked.
Flooding Prep Checklist
Randy Wagner is an example of successfully thinking ahead and preparing for floods, but perhaps a little more extreme than the average homeowner. For those people without an extra $8,000, there are some simple and inexpensive steps you can take to help prepare your home for flood season.
- Ensure your drainage is strong. Make sure there aren’t any areas around your home that will allow water to pile up and spill into unwanted areas. Clean gutters and downspouts, removing leaves and other debris that could cause blockages. Add additional drain spouts or gutter screens and covers as needed. Clean out sidewalk drains and check the grading of your lawn and driveway. When possible re-grade grass and dirt areas so that water runs away from your home. If not possible to change the slope of an area, invest in sandbags to create an artificial barrier.
- Test your Sump Pump. Add this to your regular checklist including smoke and carbon monoxide detector maintenance. Test your sump pump at least once a year. You’ll find your pump in the basement or crawl space. Check the outside drainage pipe for clogs. Check the electric plug for tears, worn wires – unplug it and re-plug it in to verify everything turns on. Remove the lid of the sump pump and pour a little water in. Make sure this gets moved through the outside drain. Certain pumps may require different tools for these tests, so make sure to check with your manufacturer.
- Check your property for leaks. Check your property for obvious leaks, and prevent issues before they become larger problems. Inspect ceilings, floorboards, walls, and foundations. If you see moisture, check back to make sure this isn’t a one-time occurrence. Remember that safety matters, especially if a leak is located near electrical lines. If you suspect a serious leak or a leak in an inaccessible location, contact a leak detection company to verify the nature of the problem and get a professional consultation on repairs.
- Waterproof vulnerable areas. Don’t leave your home to the mercy of the environment. Be proactive and apply waterproof sealants to vulnerable areas. Your local hardware store will have multiple options available to seal your property including caulks, silicone sealants, liquid rubber paints, and sprays.
If in doubt, check with your local building expert and county websites for suggestions. Local pros will often have additional area-specific suggestions that can give you an extra edge in prevention. Make sure you have followed the OSHA guidelines for emergency preparedness and have access to a NOAA weather radio. If your insurance or title company designated your home as a high flood risk, you may want to get a consultation with flood assessment professionals.
Recovering from Home Flooding
Despite your best efforts, sometimes floods happen – and your house gets damaged. With luck, your preparation will have kept this damage to a minimum. Once the weather conditions subside, you’ll want to inspect your home to find and address problems so that you can recover from home flood damage. While many repairs require little more than elbow grease, remember that flooding can cause issues including electrical damage, unsafe respiratory conditions, and structural damage. If in doubt at any time, it’s best to call a professional to ensure your safety.
Remove the Water
The first step in recovering from flood damage is to remove the water from your home. Use whatever combination of drains, pumps, and vacuums you need to remove standing water. Extreme amount of standing water may require both time and professional equipment. The next step may involve towels and mops. After the standing water is gone, you will want to turn on fans and other air movers, and possibly use a dehumidifier to remove any residual moisture. You may also want to purchase a hygrometer, a device to measure any residual moisture not easily visible to the naked eye.
Address Mold Issues
Mold can invade your house in both obvious locations, and also hidden ones. If there are any signs of moisture, check for harmful molds in these locations. You can buy a local mold testing kit at your local hardware store. Smaller mold problems can be handled with a bleach and water mixture or a commercially available paint. Make sure the area is well ventilated and is able to dry thoroughly.
If you suspect there is a large area of mold damage, or have any trouble breathing while in the house, it’s time to leave immediately and call a mold removal specialist. Mold can cause serious health issues, and dangerous molds are not worth the risk for a DIY project.
Don’t stop at cleaning mold that you find, but prevent additional mold damage by cleaning and sanitizing everything the water touched. Flood water poses health hazards beyond mold, as this water may have traveled from just about anywhere without treatment. Flood waters can contain sewage or livestock waste, and at best are often just dirty. Clean all floors and surfaces with disinfectant cleaners like bleach, and make sure clothes and bedding go through a hot dryer after the washing machine. You may want to rent an upholstery cleaner for furniture or hire a professional service. Check with your insurance company to see if they have a referral for a flood recovery cleaning group.
Reverse Water Damage to Walls and Ceilings
Common signs of water damage in walls, ceilings, and also floors include brownish stains or buckled and bubbled surfaces. If this damage is not addressed quickly, the water can continue to spread – causing side effects that can outlast the initial damage by years. If this water damage is minor, you may be able to simply dry the area out with fans or a dehumidifier. Basic repairs might include a new coat of paint of varnish. For more severe damage, it’s likely you will have to replace the entire section or even the entire ceiling. Extensive damage is best handled by a professional with approval from your insurance company.
Identify and Seal the Source of any Leaks
Once everything is dried out, you are in a prime position to reseal everything. Take a few days if possible to reinspect your dried out surfaces and identify any new leaks. Bring in a professional to ensure that all leaks are being addressed. Once you are sure all leaks have been identified, grab the sealers used in your initial house prep and block out any new moisture. Pay special attention to joints between windows, doors, and roofs. Seal all cracks in basements or crawl spaces in both the walls and if you have cement slab floor. Verify outdoor areas that allowed water to flow into your house and make sure these are redirected or patched up before the next rain.
Catastrophic weather events aren’t something you can avoid. With increased rains and flash floods throughout the continent, 2016 has proven to be an unfortunate wake up call to many homeowners. While you can’t avoid these storms, you can take steps to minimize the damage they will cause you.
Prepare your home against leaks and flooding. Hire professionals to do regular inspections and maintenance on your home. Clean gutters and downspouts, patch and seal leaks, and test your sump pump. If you live in an extremely high danger area, you may even want to look into sandbags or other dam-like barriers to help keep the water out. If flooding damage does occur despite your best efforts, you can still minimize the damage that has been caused. Your first priority will be removing any water and drying everything out in your house. And then you’ll need to clean it. You’ll need to clean everything.
Remember that your health and safety is a priority. Smaller repairs to walls and ceilings, or small amounts of mold are generally ok to do yourself, but larger contaminations or issues with structural stability should be handled by professionals. If at any time your are in doubt, it’s best to call in a professional for an estimate – safety first! For any questions about how to prepare for or recover from mold damage, contact your local flood experts online.