This week marks one year since Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, flooding homes and drowning out entire neighborhoods. The area is still recovering from the extensive damage. Thank you to The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and all organizations and people who supported the restoration efforts. Check out some of our articles with information about Harvey and hurricane preparedness.
Floods can occur in virtually any location, and come without warning. Causes of floods range from natural occurrences to manmade circumstances like leaks and overflows. Without proper preparation, the damage to your property can be devastating. Thankfully, there are methods for detecting the potential for a flood before one takes place; giving you ample time to take action and relocate to a safer place. These methods rely highly on precise measurements and constant coordination in order to accurately predict when and where floods could occur.
By law, the National Weather Service (NWS) has responsibility for issuing warnings and forecasts to inform citizens of potential dangers. Raising awareness of the situation aids in saving lives and reducing the prospective flood damage. They accomplish this using the River and Flood program, which relies on the accuracy of data from stream gauges. These gauges are placed strategically throughout the U.S. to assess the flood risk of various areas in real time.
Meanwhile, operating those gauges is the authority of the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) who collects and sends the data to the NWS.
What stream gauges do and how they help save lives
Stream gauges are scientific instruments placed in bodies of water to test and record water elevation levels. These tools accumulate the data necessary to discover potential hazards and send this information to a data logging facility. From there, the data is studied and analyzed for unusual patterns and high risks of potential flooding. The NWS uses several types of stream gauges, but the most commonly used is known as the Automated Local Evaluation in Real-Time, or ALERT. If the water levels reach a preset level or experience rapid changes, the ALERT gauge issues a warning through satellite. Since floods can be unpredictable and unexpected, the levels are consistently being monitored and analyzed. This allows the NWS to present flood warnings across the country at a moment’s notice. When a flood occurs, the NWS and USGS unite to collect and study the current hydrologic data. The gauges accumulate information on the stream flow, which the USGS is in charge of collecting. The NWS on the other hand, gathers data on localized precipitation. The agencies then converge their findings to determine the potential for future flooding in a specific area.
What to do when flood warnings are issued
When an area is deemed at risk for potential flooding, the NWS will send warnings and information to local, state, and federal decision-makers, in addition to the general public. After that, the decision makers in the area will make a plan to reduce flood losses based on the data they are given. There are several measures that they may take to prevent losses and life threatening situations. These measures include flood proofing and other flood fighting efforts, evacuation orders, and the shutdown of certain facilities. These decisions are made based on several factors, such as location and how much time there is to act, according to the data the NWS presents. When you receive a flood warning, it may be overwhelming and intense. The NWS and USGS work around the clock to ensure that information is accurately gathered, giving you as much time as possible to prepare for disaster. If you receive a flood warning in your area and are issued an evacuation notice by local, state, or federal officials, leave the area immediately. Responding to these warnings can save your life.
If you experience a flood and need to hire a professional company for cleanup, ServiceMaster Restoration & Cleaning is here 24/7/365 to assist in the recovery process and be at your side as quickly as possible. Call (800) 303-5844 for emergency flood damage restoration.