UTAH (ABC4) – If you don’t know who your local floodplain administrator or manager is, now is a good time to find out.
Making that connection may be particularly important if you live near the area where a massive wildfire forced the evacuation of approximately 10,000 residents in Parley’s Canyon over the weekend.
With a burn scar leaving much of the mountainside’s vegetation destroyed and with rainfall expected on Tuesday night, homes near the area are ripe for flooding.
Again, it’s a good idea to figure out who the local flood insurance expert is if you live in a home that could be affected. It probably makes sense for all homeowners in the state to have flood insurance, experts say.
“It’s really great,” state floodplain manager Angela Crowther says of flood insurance to ABC4.com. “It’s going to help property owners recover quicker financially, instead of being devastated and then having to do it all themselves to try to recover from that event.”
Flood insurance, which is not included in traditional homeowners’ insurance, can require a bit more of an effort to acquire, but it can be worth it, especially if the property in question is identified as high risk on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood maps. In some cases, homes that have a federally-backed mortgage and are in a high-risk flood area may be required to carry flood insurance.
For the most part, there is typically a 30 day waiting period for a homeowner to acquire flood insurance as part of the National Flood Insurance Program, meaning that folks who see a storm brewing on ABC4 Pinpoint Weather’s forecast and think to themselves, ‘Hey, now would be a great time to get flood insurance, just in case something happens tonight,’ likely wouldn’t have it go into effect immediately.
However, for homes near a recently burned area, such as the 6,000-plus that were evacuated on Saturday, an exception can be made, lifting the waiting period to receive immediate coverage. Crowther explains that NFIP policies can also provide funding for prevention and mitigation work to allow homeowners to prepare with sandbags and lumber and such. She recommends those who feel such coverage and funding may be prudent to contact an NFIP policy-providing insurance agent.
While FEMA and flood response received a modern boost in awareness due to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, Crowther says flood insurance has been a federal program since 1968. Most people, especially those in areas that don’t see a lot of flooding may not be aware of what is offered, Crowther says, so she recommends residents reach out to find out more. Utahns living in Summit and Salt Lake County, the Northern Utah areas most vulnerable to flooding this week, are advised to call the county off to speak to the floodplain administrator.
In addition to protecting the home with insurance, the Utah Division of Emergency Management is also recommending practical measures for immediate physical safety during a flood. Wade Mathews, who works as the Program Manager for Be Ready Utah, says it’s much better to be prepared and not need it than to need it and not be prepared in the event of a disaster.
Committing a useful rhyme to memory can be life-saving, according to Mathews.
“With flash flooding, the protective action steps to take to survive an oncoming threat or disaster is ‘Turn around, don’t drown, go to higher ground,’” he recommends.
Attempting to drive through by car or trudge through a puddle on foot is extremely dangerous, Mathews states, due to the unknown nature of the depth. It can be impossible to judge by the surface of the puddle how deep it reaches and the consequences of trying to cross anyways can be devastating. Flowing water with a depth of 18 inches is enough to cause an SUV to float away, foot-deep water can make a smaller car begin to float, Mathews says. Even water flowing at a depth of six inches can knock a person off their feet and put them in a life-threatening situation.
If you need to evacuate, Mathews recommends having a disaster supply kit on hand. Such kits used to be known as 72-hour kits, but nowadays, experts have dropped the term to indicate that a crisis could extend past the three-day period.
“However, they should still be a minimum of a three-day supply of food and water, medications, clothing, toiletries, comfort items, and things like that,” Mathews says.
Perhaps one of the most crucial pieces to include in a supply kit is a source of information, such as a cell phone or at the very least, a battery-powered radio. Staying informed on where to go and what to avoid is an essential step in navigating the literal or figurative muddy waters of a disaster.
For more information on emergency preparedness, visit Be Ready Utah.
Information on flood insurance can be found here.