This weekend turned out to be a soggy mess. The hurricane never made it to us. It turned out to sea before reaching the coast. The nor'easter we got though dumped a bunch of rain on us but not near as much as South Carolina got. South Carolina has received 10-15 inches of rain and it is still raining. They are getting a ton of flooding and this morning all of the highways are closed around Columbia, SC and parts of I-95 are also closed. This will cause all sorts of issues. Large trucks with supplies will have a difficult time getting in. Emergency vehicles can't get around quickly.
We tend to take transportation for granted. We expect to be able to get in our car and go. But sometimes we can't. It drives my husband crazy when he doesn't have the luxury of being able to go where he wants to go. Even this weekend with the soggy rain he still found a reason to get out and go somewhere at least once each day, even though we had already decided to stay home.
We go to the grocery store or the drug store and expect products to be there. We expect the shelves to be stocked and if they are empty we just wait a few days and they will be stocked again. We expect hospitals to have the supplies they need. When highways are closed supplies can't get to where they need to be. Food doesn't get restocked at the grocery. Hospitals don't get their regular deliveries.
In an emergency situation, it is so important that we stay put. Even if we can get out on the roads around our town we shouldn't. If we were to be injured by rushing floodwaters, an accident, or by a falling tree, it would be difficult for emergency workers to get to us. This is why it is so important that we do stay put.
It also proves the point that we need to prepare prior to the weather event.
Back to Columbia. Did they prepare? Did those who aren't in the flooding zone get enough food and supplies? Did they think to pack an emergency bag just in case they needed to leave their home? When the floods began, did they think to go ahead and leave the area for higher ground?
When we thought we might get the hurricane, my husband came to me and asked if we should discuss leaving the area. We discussed it and decided to wait until the next morning to make a final decision. At that point forecasters were saying that if the hurricane came on land pretty much all of our state would be affected. Most of the states above and below us would be affected as well. It would be difficult for us to go somewhere where the storm wouldn't affect the area. That still didn't mean we wouldn't make the decision to go somewhere else. Our current home is pretty much all glass on the back side. We back up to a thickly wooded area. It is plausible that trees could fall and hit our home causing much damage. Thankfully we did have the luxury of time to make a final decision. The next morning forecasters announced that the path the hurricane would most likely take would be out to sea. So we decided to stay put.
Flooding can be one of the most devastating things that can happen to a home (along with fires). The damage is so extensive and even though things dry out they still might be damaged. Their integrity and strength might be compromised. Flood insurance is difficult to get and can be so expensive. It is often not recommended for those homes where they are not prone to flooding. I wonder how many homes in Columbia were flooded and didn't have flood insurance. Probably most of them.
So what can we do to prepare for a flooding emergency?
1. Protect your belongings. Check to see if you can get flood insurance. If not, your savings will be important. Save a little each month or each paycheck for these type of emergencies. It may take a long time to get back to where you were but having at least a little something to get you by at first will help.
2. Protect your memories. Regularly back up your electronics. Your pictures, your videos. If flooding seems eminent, put the albums and important memories in the highest part of your house. Keep a copy of your back up files off site and a copy with you in your "bug out" bag.
3. Pack a bug out bag with a change or two of clothes, basic toiletries, and important papers. Speaking of important papers, take a picture or scan them to create a digital file. Then keep them in a safe place and keep a copy with you. This would include birth certificates, social security cards, insurance documents, medical records, deeds, and other documents.
4. Have a backup plan. Don't wait until it is too late. Get out while you can. Flooding is no joke. It can sweep away cars, houses, and people. Flooding can make the ground unstable can cause sinkholes. Decide before the storm where you will go and prepare for possible travel to that place. Go when you can. Don't wait until it is too late.
5. Stock up on the basics. Food, water, lots of water. Water may be contaminated for weeks on end after a flooding event. Cleaning supplies, bleach, basic yard tools, batteries, lighting devices, pet needs, etc. You may be stuck for a while and even when you can get out of your house stores may not be stocked of the things you need.
6. Get some cash. Not a lot but some. ATMs don't work unless you have power. Credit and debit card machines use electricity. After the flooding starts to go down and you can get out again. Stores may still not have power. They won't be able to accept your credit cards or debit cards. Cash will be your main way to purchase the things you need.
7. Remember it is just stuff. Yes, it is your stuff. Yes, you liked it a LOT! Yes, you will miss it and it will be emotional. But in the end it is just stuff. Let it go. Save yourself, save your family. Leave the stuff.
Back to Columbia. Newscasters and weather people are saying that this catastrophic flooding that is happening is a "once in a THOUSAND years flood". It is not normal. Therefore the aftermath is unpredictable. Those who live there will need lots of help rebuilding and getting their lives back to something that resembles "normal".