Flood waters have rushed through Boulder, as well as 16 additional counties throughout Colorado, stretching about 200 miles from north to south, damaging nearly 18,000 homes, destroying more than 1,500 houses and contributing to the death of at least seven people. To date, emergency management officials give a rough estimate that 658 people remain unaccounted for and 11,750 people have been evacuated as a result of the Front Range storms. To date, 300 pets have been rescued. At least that’s some good news!
The Colorado situation sheds light on an emergency that is somewhat difficult to imagine. In affected areas, people and pets routinely plan for severe weather such as tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. But, despite the fact it is one of the most common hazards in the U.S., flooding is somewhat difficult to picture without a ready visual reference. Videos and still photographs of the recent flooding in Colorado are effectively demonstrating that flooding can wreak unimaginable horrors on large populations.
- A visually impaired man walking in Denver with his service dog was swept into a drainage ditch and pulled out four blocks later by a police officer and paramedic.
- Emergency workers used a zipline to bring a woman to safety at Big Thompson Canyon.
- A father of four spent two hours in a submerged car. He became trapped when a bridge collapsed, sending his car into a creek, flipping it on its roof.
- Because the waters obliterated many roads, authorities haven’t been able to ascertain exactly how many people might be stranded or missing.
- The roadways aren’t simply blocked by mudslides or rockslides or debris. The roads are in many, many cases—simply gone.
- Small towns in the western mountains are completely isolated without road access, telephone information, power, water or sewer.
- People are being taken to safety in inflatable rafts, as entire houses were submerged by rising floodwater.
To Prepare for a Flood
- Copy your most important documents (mortgage papers, deed, passport, bank information). Keep copies in your home and store originals in a secure place outside the home, such as a bank safe deposit box. My most important document is my dog license.
- Take photos and an itemized list of your most valuable possessions. My most valuable possession is a bone. Store copies with other documents.
- Save and store receipts for any expensive household items (appliances, electronic equipment, etc.)
- When the National Weather Service issues a flood watch, monitor potential flood hazards on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, on the Internet or through the Twilight Bark.
- Create an emergency preparedness kit. Include a battery-operated or hand-crank radio.
- Keep a three-day supply of nonperishable food and bottled water on hand.
- Don’t forget to include pet supplies in your emergency kit.
During a Flood
- When a flood warning is issued, heed official instructions.
- Don’t walk through a flooded area. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down.
- Don’t drive through a flooded area. Just two feet of water can lift and move a car, even an SUV. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else during a flood.
- Keep away from downed power lines and any other electrical wires—electrocution is often a major cause of death in floods.
- Watch out for wandering animals. They may seek shelter in your home and aggressively defend themselves.
- Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
- When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
- Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet or paws.
- If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
- Keep children and pets out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
- Because standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the U.S. For more flood safety tips and information on flood insurance, please visit the National Flood Insurance Program Web site at www.FloodSmart.gov.
If you have recently sustained loss or damage due to the severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides, you may be eligible for disaster aid. Contact FEMA to register for assistance. If you would like to donate to relief efforts, contact the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or Help Colorado Now.
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