Gear up for flood risk

Winter’s heavy snow may contribute to widespread flooding this spring — UAB emergency physician advises preparation.

Gear up for flood riskThe risk of flooding is rising nationwide as snow melt from heavy winter weather mixes with anticipated spring rains. Minor flooding is already reported in some areas of the country, including the Florida panhandle, Indiana and Illinois, and the National Weather Service predicts minor flooding across large areas of the Midwest and South, with heavier flooding likely in the upper Midwest and along the lower Mississippi River valley.

“Flooding can occur quickly, and we need to prepare for it, just as we need to prepare for other weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes,” said Sarah Nafziger, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and assistant state emergency medical services medical director for the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Nafziger says keeping informed is the key to staying safe during flooding events. Know your risk, pay attention to media reports, and have a plan.

“If flooding is expected in your area, plan an escape route that leads to higher ground, and prepare an emergency kit with first aid supplies and medicine, batteries, water, flashlights, and nonperishable food,” she said. “Charge your electronic devices, and be ready to flee.”

Nafziger says the National Weather Service website is a good source for additional recommendations before, during and after flooding; these include avoiding flood waters, heeding road closings and cautionary signs, and waiting for an official “all clear” before returning to a flooded area.

“The aftermath of flood can be just as dangerous as the actual flooding, with disease, electrical hazards and even displaced animals as threats,” Nafziger said.

National Flood Safety Week is March 16-22.