Flood and Flash Flood Safety

Flooding in Green Bay in June, 2020
Flooding in Green Bay in June, 2020(WEAU)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 5:07 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Flooding is the number-one cause of deaths related to thunderstorms, killing more people each year than lightning. People driving into flooded areas are responsible for more than half of flood-related drownings. People walking in or near flood waters make up the second-largest percentage of drownings in floods.

Water doesn’t have to be knee-high to be dangerous. Six inches of moving water can have enough force to pull an adult off their feet. Twelve inches of water can float a car or small SUV. Two feet of rushing water can carry away SUVs and trucks.

Even safe levels of water can hide hazards like washed out road surfaces, sharp debris and electrical wires -- electrocution is another major cause of deaths during floods -- and keep in mind, there might be more water making its way down. Water level can rise quickly and without warning.

While most flooding is associated with heavy rain, flash floods can happen where there is no rain. There are numerous factors that can cause flooding, including but not limited to:

  • Wind (Green Bay is an example of this: Strong northeast winds can push against the Fox River’s flow out to the bay, pushing water back into tributaries)
  • Drought or wildfires (water easily runs off dried, sun-baked earth or burn scarred ground instead of soaking in)
  • Rapid snowmelt
  • Ice jams or mudslides redirecting water or causing it to back up
  • Dam or levee failures
  • Municipal drainage systems (sewers overwhelmed by rainfall can’t move it through fast enough or pump stations fail)

Before a flood

Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. Check your a agent about flood insurance. Coverage may be limited to the furnace, water heater, and what’s essential to the building’s structure. Don’t wait for a rainy day: New policies don’t take effect for at least 30 days.

Make sure your sump pump is working and has a backup.

Have a professional install check-valves which prevent sewer water from backing up into your home through the drains.

If you’re in a flood plain, consider having sandbags ready. The National Weather Service advises filling sandbags can take longer than you think.

Know your surroundings. What’s the fastest way to higher ground? What roads near you tend to collect water?

Stay informed about weather conditions. If you’re in a flood-prone area, be prepared to evacuate to higher ground. Pack up in advance and charge essential electronic devices. CLICK HERE for tips on preparing for a disaster and what to pack in an emergency kit.

Evacuate yourself -- don’t wait for an official order, especially if you notice water rising.

During a flood

At home

Don’t go into any room where water reaches the electrical outlets. Get out if you see sparks or hear the sounds of electricity: buzzing, crackling, popping or snapping.

Obey evacuation orders. If you’re told to evacuate, do it immediately. Lock your home.


If you’re in a low-lying area, get to higher ground immediately.

Don’t walk through flood waters.

In a car

If water covers a road, don’t drive through it.

Especially at night, headlights reflecting on the water can deceive you about how deep it is. Also, part of the roadway might have collapsed and you can’t see it.

After a flood

Avoid flood water, even standing water, which may contain dangerous debris, chemicals, and electrical wires.

Obey “Road Closed” and other warning signs. Don’t interfere in disaster areas. If authorities tell you to stay away, wait until you get the all-clear.

Be careful entering buildings. Stay informed with authorities and your utilities whether electricity and gas are turned off, and have your utility services restored by a professional. Be cautious walking around a flood-damaged house, because water can weaken floors. Watch out for wild animals which might have sought shelter in your house.

Check with authorities if you should boil water before using it for food, drink or ice.

Contact your insurance agent.

Contact a family member and/or close friend to let them know you’re safe, and ask them to contact others to share the news; you have enough to deal with right now.

Don’t use a portable generator inside the house, garage or any enclosed space.


Facts and Fictions

Fiction: If it’s not raining, there’s no danger from lightning.

Fact: Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and can occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.

Fiction: The rubber soles of your shoes or rubber tires on a car will insulate you from lightning.

Fact: Rubber soles or tires provide NO protection from lightning– which can heat the air hotter than the surface of the sun. The steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides some protection if you are not touching anything metal. You are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.

Fiction: People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.

Fact: Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately for first aid and CPR.

Fiction: Heat lightning on hot summer days poses no threat.

Fact: What is called “heat lightning” is lightning from a storm too far away to hear the thunder. Remember, the storm may be moving in your direction and lightning bolts can strike 10 miles from the rain.

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