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April 29, 2016National Preparedness Day April 30: Know your flood risk
As part of National Preparedness Day on April 30, the S.C. Emergency Management Division and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources encourage everyone in South Carolina to take steps that reduce the risks of severe flooding.
While many parts of the state are still recovering from the severe flooding of October 2015, spring and summer months typically produce heavy rains and the conditions for severe and flash flooding. Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.
Half of all flood-related fatalities occur when cars are driven into flood waters. It only takes two feet of flood water to carry away a car. Only six inches of rushing flood water is needed to sweep away a full-grown adult.
The season for hurricanes is upon us. These sprawling storms are notorious for high winds; however, most, if not all, hurricane-related fatalities are due to storm surge and fresh water drowning. Hurricanes create coastal and inland flooding by pushing large quantities of water ashore in the form of storm surge. A wall of water can rapidly overwhelm shoreline structures threatening those who have not evacuated. Evacuation orders save lives. Hurricanes also produce vast swaths of heavy inland rainfall, even if the storms do not make landfall.
The rainfall amounts seen during recent October 2015 floods, although not actually hurricane-related, did represent the rainfall possible from a hurricane moving over South Carolina. On Oct. 3, 11.5 inches of rain fell in Charleston in just 24 hours, both a station record and over three times the amount of rain Charleston normally receives during the entire month of October. Over the course of three days in early October 2015 parts of the Midlands received more than 20 inches, leading to multiple dam failures, overloaded storm drains and the worst flooding many residents have ever experienced.
The floods of October 2015 demonstrated that severe flooding can disrupt electricity and the drinking water supply for many days. Flood waters could also carry hazardous materials that can endanger health, either upon contact with the water itself or with the soggy debris left after the flood waters recede.
Regardless of the source, the season for heavy rain and flooding is before us again. Take precautions to avoid dangerous flood waters whether they be from an offshore hurricane or a severe thunderstorm. Plan ahead. Prepare early. Never underestimate the dangers of flood waters.
The S.C. Emergency Management Division and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and recommend the following: