BONUS: Flood Safety Information

This information was provided for public enlightenment by Greg Mactye. Lieutenant Mactye is a member of the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit, a volunteer underwater search and recovery team based in Milford, New Jersey.


  • A flood is “too much water for one location under normal conditions.”
  • Low-lying areas (floodplains) are most vulnerable.
  • Heavy rain miles upriver can flood local areas.
  • “Floods” can be almost all mud. (Mudslides).
  • Groundwater amounts affect flood potential. (Frozen or saturated winter ground floods faster than dry summer ground).
  • Snow-melt flooding – occurs in late Winter/early Spring.
  • Ice-dam derived floods are usually Flash type floods.
  • “100- and 500-year” floods are misleading terms! These CAN happen back-to-back!
  • Flood zones are usually known and well documented. Insurance maps, FEMA, EPA, DEP maps often show where flooding is likely. Plan alternate routes if these areas are impassable.

Mortality Statistics

  • Floods kill more people per year than all other disasters. (10,000 killed in the U.S. from 1900-2009. 1 billion in property damage per year).
  • The National Weather Service estimates flash floods take 110 lives every year. Half those victims die trapped in their cars.
  • During hurricanes, the tidal (or storm) surge kills the most people.

Flood Timing

  • Floods can develop suddenly (Flash Floods) or over time. (Hurricane “storm surges”, small rivers rise/fall quickly, large rivers rise/fall slowly.)
  • Flash floods come and go the fastest, are most powerful and deadly.
  • Slow-rising floodwaters remain the longest and usually cause the most damage.

The Power of Moving Water

  • It often takes just 6 inches of fast-moving water to move a small car.
  • One foot of moving water exerts 500 pounds of force on a vehicle. It also creates almost 1,500 pounds of buoyant lift. This means that a 2000-pound car effectively weighs 500 pounds in 12 inches of water. Therefore, that 500 pounds of force created by the moving water can easily push the car!
  • In just two feet of water, the average car will lose all contact with the road, and can actually bob up and down like a cork!
  • Driving fast through a flood does not help – it actually makes things worse because:
    • You can easily lose control of the car.
    • Water can kill your engine, leaving you vulnerable to the power of the moving water.
    • You won’t see large items underwater until it’s too late, if you see them at all.

Direct problems caused by flooding:

  • Drownings
    • Driving around/through water.
    • Vehicle washed off road.
    • Boats capsized/overloaded/under powered.
    • Vehicle struck by H2O from dam burst.
  • Electrocution (power line workers/Rescuers).
  • Illness from hazardous materials in the water.

Some flood-related terms:

  • Flood way – Area right next to main channel. (Fastest, deepest, most deadly water).
  • Flood plain – Large area to either side of flood way. Slower, shallower water, but affects many more structures.

Tips for Motorists Caught in a Flash Flood

Water rescue experts say the last thing you should do in the event of a flash flood is to sit in your car and let it fill up with water. Get out right away, before the car sinks. Do not expect there to be an air pocket to save you.

“The first thing you do is try to relax,” says Sgt. Al Greco, of the Hillsborough County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office. “Second thing to do, take off your seat belt. After that, roll your window down, get out of the car. Do not try to ride it down to the bottom.”

Many people don’t realize the tremendous power of rising water. Cars can be pushed completely out of control and off the road by a small amount of fast-moving water! But if your car does go into deep water, it will usually not sink right away. You often have a few minutes to act. Believe it or not, your best exit is not the door. Opening the door will let in more water, making the car sink faster. Go for the window instead, experts say. Power windows will not necessarily stop working immediately. “In fresh water they’ll work up to 30 minutes,” Sgt. Greco

said. ”We‘ve pulled cars out where the wipers are working and the headlights are still on. However, in saltwater, you often have about a minute before the saltwater hits the battery and will short it out.”

A child passenger makes escape more complicated, but not impossible. Underwater rescue experts have a handy acronym for motorists to keep in mind – POGGO.

It stands for:

  • Pop your seat belt.
  • Open a window.
  • Grab your baby and
  • GO!



  • Obtain sandbags ahead of time. Fill sandbags one-half full with sand or soil, fold top of sandbag down and rest bag on its folded top. Note sandbags are for small-flow protection (up to two feet only).
  • Monitor your radio and television news closely for information concerning weather conditions and flooding in your area. Buy battery-powered or crank-type equipment.
  • Have an emergency plan that all family members understand. Know how to contact loved ones if you are not able to get to your home because of flood-related incidents.
  • Clear rain gutters and drains ahead of time, to help avoid possible roof collapses and other property damage.
  • Have enough water and food on hand to supply your family for at least a 72-hour period. Also, remember to include a radio and flashlight with fresh batteries in your emergency kit for use if necessary.
  • Be aware that debris basins can overflow. Be familiar with the area in which you live, and have alternate escape routes if asked to evacuate your home.
  • Be aware when down-canyon of mountainous terrain. It can rain in the mountains but not where you are, yet you can be subjected to a sudden (within seconds) mudflow.


  • Stay away from flood control channels, catch basins, canyons and natural waterways, which are susceptible to flooding during periods of heavy rain.
  • Avoid venturing into known problem areas.
  • Do not attempt to cross flooded areas and never enter moving water.
  • If flooding traps you in your car, stay with it. If necessary, wait on top of your car for assistance.
  • If you become isolated, seek the highest ground available and wait for help.
  • If you see someone who has been swept into moving water, DO NOT ENTER THE WATER TO ATTEMPT A RESCUE! Immediately call 911 for trained emergency rescue personnel and if possible, throw them some type of flotation device.
  • Know how to shut off all utilities if necessary. Remember – water and electricity do not mix!