Floods are a year-round concern from coast to coast. On the West Coast, floods usually occur during the rainy season (November to April). Flash floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, and destroy roads and buildings. Floods are usually caused by intense rainfall, but can also happen if a levee is breached. If potential flooding is developing slowly, forecasters can anticipate when and where flooding will occur. There are four levels of flood notifications:
- Flood Advisory - flooding is not expected to be severe enough to issue a flood warning,
- Flood Watch - conditions are favorable for flooding,
- Flood Warning - flooding is imminent or occurring, and
- Flash Flood Warning - flash flood is imminent or occurring
During a flood, the Red Cross recommends listening to local radio and television stations and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio for possible flood warnings and reports of flooding in progress or other critical information from the National Weather Service. This information will help you be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice and head for higher ground when a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area.
Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, turn around and go another way. As little as six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet. If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising water, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground because cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger. Be aware that standard homeowner's insurance doesn't cover flooding; therefore it is important to have protection from floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, and heavy rains.