"In the last 30 years, inland flooding has been responsible for more than half the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States."
—Ed Rappaport National Hurricane Center
When it comes to hurricanes, wind speed is not the whole story. Hurricanes produce storm surge, tornadoes, and often the most deadly of all—flooding.
Over the past 30 years, flooding has been responsible for the most deaths from hurricanes. Flooding is not directly related to wind strength of hurricanes. Some of the greatest rainfall amounts occur from weaker storms that move slowly or stall. Flooding can be a major threat to communities hundreds of miles from the coast as intense rain falls from huge tropical air masses. That’s why 63 percent of the flooding deaths resulting from hurricanes over the past 30 years have occurred by in inland counties.
Since 1970, freshwater floods have accounted for 59% of the deaths resulting from tropical storms and hurricanes. Sadly, that number rises to 78% among children. At least 23% of U.S. tropical cyclone deaths occur to people who drown in, or attempting to abandon, their cars.
In 1999, Hurricane Floyd brought intense rains and record flooding to the Eastern United State and North Carolina. Of the 56 people who perished in that hurricane, 50 drowned in inland flooding, 35 in North Carolina.
Flooding Safety Actions
- Determine the elevation of your property.
- Move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood water.
- Keep materials on hand like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, plastic garbage bags, lumber, shovels, work boots and gloves. Call your local emergency management agency to learn how to construct proper protective measures around your home.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Be aware of streams, drainage channels and areas known to flood, so you or your evacuation routes are not cut off.
- Restrict children from playing in flooded areas.
- Test drinking water for potability; wells should be pumped out and the water tested before drinking.
- Do not use fresh food that has come in contact with floodwaters. Wash canned goods that come in contact with floodwaters with soap and hot water.
- Do not cross flowing water. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
- Have flood insurance. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance. Do not make assumptions. Check your policy.