The old saying holds true once again. March has gotten off to a roaring start, with severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash flooding rolling across Georgia the first few days of the month. Approximately 223 homes were damaged in nine counties, and the storms’ effects stretched across nearly the entire state. Although Georgia was spared the larger death tolls of some of the other states hit by this storm system, unfortunately, one Fulton County woman died in a storm drain.
Storms like this one do more to drive home the importance of preparedness than anything I could write or say. Those of you who took shelter in basements and bathrooms, monitored local media outlets and your NOAA Weather Radio for the latest information, and pulled flashlights out of your Ready kits were prepared. But if you found yourself scrambling around the house trying to find a working flashlight, or if you weren’t sure where to take shelter, then I encourage you to take steps so that you are ready the next time severe weather drives you to a safe part of the house. Knowing what to do and when to take action are the best tools you have to protect yourself and your family in the face of fierce storms.
In that vein, this week is National Flood Safety Awareness Week, which means it is a good time for you to find out what to do when faced with rising waters. Floods are one of the most common hazards in the U.S., but not all floods are alike. That makes it even more important for you to evaluate your personal risk and to educate yourself about how to act in the event of a flood. The most important tip to remember (from the National Weather Service): Turn Around, Don’t Drown. Of the nearly 100 fatalities from floods each year, most of them are caused by people driving on flooded roads. Remember, it takes only two feet of water to float a full-sized automobile.
Moreover, flooding causes more than $2 billion in property damage nationwide annually, so it’s important to know your area’s flood risk. If you’re not sure, call your local emergency management agency office or planning and zoning department. Unfortunately, standard homeowners insurance does not typically cover flood damage. The National Flood Insurance Program was created in 1968 to address this dilemma. It provides reasonable flood insurance in exchange for the careful management of flood-prone areas by local communities. The program, administered by FEMA, is available in hundreds of participating Georgia communities. To learn more, visit www.floodsmart.gov.
I hope that as we head toward the second half of March that the old saying will continue to hold true and we’ll find ourselves enjoying some very lamb-like weather. But if we don’t, just make sure that you’re aware of the tips to stay safe and ready for whatever comes your way.