Ready NHC: Flooding

Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Floods may:

  • Result from rain, coastal storms, storm surges, and overflows of dams and other water systems.
  • Develop slowly or quickly – Flash floods can come with no warning.
  • Cause utility outages, disrupt transportation, and damage buildings.

Floods can occur at any time of the year and almost anywhere in North Carolina, so it’s important to prepare your family and property ahead of time.  Learn more at ReadyNC.org, Ready.gov, and in the panels below.

  • Flood watch – rainfall is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow their banks. Flooding is possible.
  • Flood warning – flooding is occurring or very likely to happen in an affected river, lake or tidewater area. If told to leave, do so immediately.
  • Flash flood watch – flash flooding in specified areas is possible. Be alert! You may need to take quick action.
  • Flash flood warning – flash flooding is occurring or is likely to happen along certain streams and select areas. Get to a safe place immediately!

Did you know? More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside of the high risk flood zone, and homeowners and renters insurance typically do not cover flood damage. Learn about flood insurance at FloodSmart.gov.

Below are some steps you can take to help protect your property from flood damage:

  • Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.
  • Declutter drains, gutters, and downspouts.
  • Consider installing check valves to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Consider installing a sump pump with a battery-operated backup.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • If you do not have flood insurance, consider purchasing or renewing a flood insurance policy. It typically takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect and can protect the life you’ve built. Homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding. Flood coverage is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • If you have flood insurance:
    • Check your policy to see if loss avoidance measures are covered. Some policies cover the cost of loss avoidance measures, like sandbags and water pumps, to protect your insured property. Learn more about flood loss avoidance on FEMA’s website.
      • Keep copies of all receipts and a record of the time spent performing the work to submit to your flood insurance adjuster for reimbursement.
    • If you have contents coverage on your flood insurance policy, take photos of anything that could be damaged by the flood (clothing, flooring, light fixtures, appliances, furniture, etc.). Photographs can be helpful if you need to file a flood insurance claim later.

If a flood warning is issued for your area, find safe shelter right away.

  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
    • Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away. If water is covering the road, turn around and find an alternative route.
    • Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
    • If floodwaters rise around your car, call 911, leave the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water, which can wash bridges away without warning.
  • Determine how best to protect yourself based on the type of flooding.
    • If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
    • Move to higher ground. If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building and call 911. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water. Go on the roof only if necessary. Once there, signal for help.
    • Stay where you are (shelter in place).
      • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
  • Stay informed.
  • Listen to local authorities for information and special instructions. Check EmergencyNHC.com and your weather radio for updates. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Avoid driving, except in emergencies.
  • Be careful during clean-up. Wear heavy gloves and boots, and work with someone else. Check for snakes and other animals that may be in your house after flooding.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris and bacteria. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Practice good hygiene after contact with flood water, and do not allow children to play in flood water. Learn more about flood water safety.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
  • Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.

If you were affected by Hurricane Florence, please visit HurricaneRecovery.NHCgov.com for recovery information and resources. 

Emergency Management: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 115 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-6900 • Fax 910-798-6904