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What is Flooding?

A flood is the inundation of normally dry land resulting from the rising and overflowing of a body of water. Floods can develop slowly over the course of several days or can develop quickly. Localized flooding (also known as urban flooding) can occur when water collects or pools in an area where water is not normally present, such as an area that has a blocked storm water drain. 

What Does the Term '100-year' Flood mean?

The 100-year flood (also known as a base flood) is a term that describes a significant flood event that statistically has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. Despite it's name, it is not a flood that occurs every 100 years. A 100-year flood can occur one year, and then again the following year. 

Flood Preparedness

Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters.  If you live in an area where floods occur, you should know the following:


  • •  Plan for evaccuation including where you are going to go and the route you will follow.
  • •  Prepare your home for a flood. Call your local building department or office of emergency management for information.
  • •  Purchase flood insurance.***
  • •  Keep all insurance policies and a list of valuable items in a safe place.
  • •  Take photos or a vieotape of the valuables you keep in your home.
  • •  Listen to your radio or television for reports of flood danger.
  • •  Keep your car filled with gas.


  • •  Do not try to walk or drive through flooded areas. Water can be deeper than it appears and water levels rise quickly. Follow official emergency evacuation routes.  If your car stalls in floodwater, get out quickly and move to higher ground.
  • •  Stay away from moving water; moving water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Cars are easily swept away in just two feet of water.
  • •  Stay away from disaster areas unless authorities ask for volunteers.
  • •  Stay away from downed power lines.
  • •  If your home is flooded, turn the utilities off until emergency officials tell you it is safe to turn them on. Do not pump the basement out until floodwater recedes.  Avoid weakened floors, walls and rooftops.
  • •  Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with floodwaters.


  • Wear gloves and boots when cleaning up.
  • Open all doors and windows. Use fans if possible to air out the building.
  • Wash all clothes and linens in hot water.
  • Discard mattresses and stuffed furniture; they can't be adequately cleaned.
  • Wash dirt and mud from walls, counters and hard surfaced floors with soap and water. Disinfect by wiping surfaces with a solution of one cup bleach per gallon of water.
  • Discard all food that has come into contact with floodwater. Canned food is alright, but thoroughly wash the can before opening.
  • If your well is flooded, your tap water is probably unsafe.  If you have public water, the health department will let you know - through radio and television - if your water is not safe to drink.  Until your water is safe, use clean bottled water.
  • Learn how to purify water. If you have a well, learn how to decontaminate it.
  • Do not use your septic system when water is standing on the ground around it. The ground below will not absorb water from sinks or toilets.  When the soil has dried, it is probably safe to again use your septic system.  To be sure, contact your local health department. 
  • When floodwaters have receded, watch out for weakened road surfaces.

Click here for more information from WA State Emergency Management Division.

***Homeowner's insurance does not cover flood damage.  It sure seems like we had quite a few people across the state last year that had flood damage during the November 2006 floods and the December and January wind storms that did not live any where near a river or stream.  And, we had a lot of folks suffer flood damage that did live near a stream or river that were uninsured.

Your home has a 26% chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9% chance of fire.  Last year, One-third of all claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) were for policies in low-risk communities (not near a river/stream).  It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it is important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise.  Since we seem to have some of our worst floods in October, now would be a good time to make the purchase.  Flood insurance is relatively inexpensive if you are not living in a special flood hazard area.  Even though the cost is higher if you do live in a special flood hazard area, it is a lot less expensive than the alternative of paying back the loan you will have to take out to fix your home.

Federal disaster assistance (when it is available and often times it is not) is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest.  For a $50,000 loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years.  Compare that to a $100,000 flood insurance premium, wihich is about $42 a month ($500 a year).  If you live in low to moderate risk area and are eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy, your flood insurance premium may be as low as $9 a month ($112 a year), including coverage for your property's contents.

Click here for more information from the NFIP through FEMA.