Nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May, with the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). More than 200 million people are at risk for flooding in their communities and the American Red Cross is issuing flood safety steps people should follow.
Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa have already experienced record flooding this year. The areas of greatest risk for flooding include the Mississippi River and its basins, Red River of the North, the Great Lakes, eastern Missouri River, lower Ohio, lower Cumberland, and Tennessee River basins. Additional spring rain and melting snow will prolong and expand flooding. As this excess water flows downstream through the river basins, the flood threat will worsen and spread.
FIND A SHELTER If someone needs to find a shelter, they can visit redcross.org/shelter, download the free Red Cross Emergency App or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). The Emergency App is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
Anyone who plans to stay in a Red Cross shelter should bring prescription medications, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, other comfort items and important documents. Don’t forget to bring any special items for children, such as diapers, formula and toys, or for family members who have unique needs.
The Red Cross urges people who may be impacted to follow these safety steps.
Get Ready for Flooding
- Pack your emergency kit. Include a gallon of water per person, per day – 3 days for evacuation, 2-week supply for home. Also pack a 3-day supply of non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery or hand crank radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, medications, sanitation and personal hygiene items, cell phone with charger, family and emergency contact information, extra cash, a map of the area and items for babies, anyone with special needs and your pets.
- Make sure everyone in your household knows what to do if a flood watch or warning is issued.
- Ensure everyone carries a Safe and Well wallet card.
- Get access to NOAA radio broadcasts.
- Keep insurance policies, valuables and other important documents in a safe deposit box or a safe place not likely to be damaged in a flood. Take pictures and keep copies of important documents and files on a flash drive that you can carry with you.
- Don’t forget your pets. Prepare a pet emergency kit for your companion animals.
Right Before a Flood
- Know the difference between a watch and warning. A watch means that a flood or flash flood is possible in your area, while a warning means that flooding/flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.
- Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
- Be prepared to evacuate quickly if directed and know your routes and destinations. If someone needs to find a shelter they can visit redcross.org/shelter.
- Check emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply. Keep it nearby.
During a Flood
- Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground. Evacuate if directed. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
- Turn off the power and water mains if instructed to do so by local authorities.
- Boil tap water until supplies have been declared safe.
- Avoid contact with floodwater. It may be contaminated with sewage.
- Continue listening to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
- Don’t use gas or electrical appliances that have been flooded until after they have been checked for safety.
- Dispose of any food that has come into contact with flood water.
- Avoid already flooded areas and areas that are subject to sudden flooding such as dips, low spots, canyons, washes etc. Stay away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains.
- The National Weather Service reports that nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle related. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams or water covered roads.
- If caught in a flash flood, try to get to higher ground and stay there. Just six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car.
- Turn around and find another route if you come upon floodwater, rapidly rising water or barricades.
- Don’t allow children to play in or near flood water. It may be contaminated with sewage.
After a Flood
- If evacuated, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so. Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
More information, including a flood safety checklist in several languages, is available here.
DOWNLOAD APPS People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for their area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps. These apps are also available in Spanish. Search for “American Red Cross” in your mobile app store or go to redcross.org/apps. In the app, go to “settings” and “change your apps language” to switch your language to Spanish.