Our Northwest

6 stay-safe flood tips you can use right now

Tuesday, December 8, 2015by  Jessica Singleton

flood tips for girl in puddleWith a string of low-pressure systems lined up to pummel the Northwest this week, the National Weather Service has issued flood watches for 11 Western Washington counties and much of northwest Oregon.

Yesterday (Monday) was the wettest December day ever in Portland, and by Wednesday night, the Cascades and Olympics could get six to 12 inches of rain (!).

Makes you remember last summer’s drought a little more fondly now, doesn’t it?

If you’re a flood veteran, like the people who live along the Skokomish River in Washington’s Mason County, you’re likely already filling sandbags. But for the rest of us, who don’t consider seasonal flooding an expected part of life, here are six do-now tips to help keep you and your property safe.


For drivers

  1. Back off on the gas and increase following distances on rain-slick roads. Also, turn off cruise control, which slows your ability to recognize and respond to changes in road conditions.

  2. flood tips for driving during floodingDon’t drive through standing water if you can’t clearly see the pavement. Just 12 inches of water is enough to float your car, putting it, you, and your passengers in serious peril. If you do decide to drive through, keep a slow, steady speed. A wave or splashed water can drown your engine. 

  3. Brake steadily. With antilock brakes, “plant and steer” rather than pump the pedal to maximize stopping power.

For homeowners

  1. Clear clogs from gutters, downspouts, and storm drains to keep water from backing up into your home. Install extenders if your downspouts discharge near your foundation. (Hire a gutter-cleaning service if ladder-climbing isn’t a safe or comfortable choice for you.) 

  2. Check your basement sump pump, if you have one, to make sure it’s clean, plugged in, and working.

  3. Re-channel standing water away from your foundation, taking care not to shift your water problem to a neighbor’s property.

If you’re unlucky enough that water has already found its way in and soaked belongings, check our tips for cleaning up the soggy mess.

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