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Staying Safe in Severe Weather

Staying safe in your home, neighborhood, and HOA during severe weather and flooding.

Generally, meteorologists define “severe weather” as weather that threatens life or property or requires authorities to intervene for public safety. Staying safe in your home during any severe weather event requires different planning, depending on where you live. Each part of our country experiences its own severe weather ranging from tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, to snow storms, blizzards, and ice storms, to thunderstorms, and heavy rains.

First, having an emergency preparedness plan is always recommended no matter where you live. Part of that plan involves having enough supplies, an evacuation plan, and a communication plan with loved ones, as well as staying informed because weather conditions are dynamic and can change quickly. Heavy rains and storms affect many areas more commonly because severe rainfall in a short time period or steady heavy rainfall often leads to flooding and sometimes, flash floods.

Floods and Flash Floods

Flooding usually happens over a period of heavy rain or storms. When an area experiences a large amount of rain in a short period of time, a flash flood may happen – this type of flooding happens with little or no warning and can be catastrophic. If you live near a low-lying community or downstream from a dam or near any water, keep apprised of any flood warnings.

Visit Flood Smart to find out if your home, neighborhood, or homeowners association (HOA) community are in a flood risk area.

Staying safe and what to do during a flood

  • Monitor local radio and TV stations, and any other weather or flood alerts you subscribe to for evacuation information.
  • Follow instructions from local government and authorities. If you are advised to evacuate, don’t wait.
  • Move away from bodies of water – streams, rivers, storm drains, lakes. Higher areas are safer.
  • When barricades are set up, they are there to keep you safe; don’t drive around or through barricades. 
  • Avoid and stay away from flood waters. The water can be contaminated, your car can stall or the water may be electrically charged. It only takes several inches of fast-moving water to sweep a person or pet away.
  • Stay away from downed power lines; assume the line is live. Do not risk being electrocuted or shocked.
  • Return home only after authorities have notified you that it’s safe. Don’t risk driving over roads and bridges that would be compromised or going into building that may collapse.
  • Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or the National Weather Service for forecasts, alerts, and other helpful information.
  • Two helpful resources for flooding are Prepare for Flooding and Floods and Flash Floods.

Staying Safe on the Roads

Weather services and local authorities attempt to give ample warning before storms and other severe weather, but plan ahead. Staying stocked with necessary items is key so that you can avoid driving during heavy. Should you need to drive, always slow down, stay focused, and drive defensively.

  • Avoid non-essential travel. If you do not need to drive during a storm, stay off the roads. Avoid driving on hilly or mountain roads or near or around waterways, especially swiftly moving water. 
  • Stay off your mobile phone. Driving in bad weather requires all your attention. It’s also illegal to text or use a hand-held mobile phone.
  • Drive with your headlights on – it helps on-coming drivers see your car and helps you see the road better as well.
  • Defog your windows for clearer visibility. With rainy cold weather inside and warmer temperatures inside your car, your windows will probably fog up.
  • Keep your windshield wipers in good condition. Windshield wipers can break down over time and need to be replaced regularly.
  • Start early and slow down. Remember when roads are wet, the stopping time and distance are much longer than on dry roads. Slow down and start extra early so you can adjust for slow or unexpected traffic and still arrive at your destination safely.
  • Keep your distance – stay farther behind the car in front of you than normal. Rain or spray from other vehicles can obscure your view of the road. More distance will allow you more time to slow down or adjust your path should you need to.
  • Don’t panic should you hydroplane. This means your car and tires lose traction with the road and can happen when driving on a wet road, especially at faster speeds. Should your start to hydroplane, stay calm: don’t oversteer in any direction or “jam” on the brakes. Doing either could cause a skid. According to the motor vehicle sources, the best course is to keep the wheel straight and take your foot off the gas pedal slowly.
  • Slow down for road workers, and public works crews and equipment.
  • Don’t drive through flooded roadways. If you can’t see the roadway, it’s time to turn around. It doesn’t take a lot of water to affect your brakes. Enough water moving at the right speed can sweep away your car or truck and put you and your passengers in danger. Don’t attempt to swim or walk across a flooded area either.
  • Test your brakes after you are not able to avoid driving through flood water. Make sure your brakes are working by pumping them a little; you’ll be able to tell if they are working properly that way.

Ways to Receive Emergency Alerts

  • County Alert Systems – these may sound as outdoor sirens or may be a phone notification.
  • Radio Station/Cable Emergency Alert Systems (EAS)
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) – alerts sent through your mobile carrier. These alerts may also advise on any action (such as an evacuation) that may need to happen.
  • Smartphone Apps – find one that notifies you of severe weather alerts or other warnings in your area.
  • Online resources, such as the or site can also keep you informed.

Read about how to stay prepared and safe in other severe weather situations.

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