Boynton Beach can be vulnerable to severe damage caused by high winds and associated flooding. Most people consider their home and its contents their largest investment. Most standard homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Separate flood insurance policies backed by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are available and affordable, in case of a future flood event that is caused by a hurricane, tropical storm, heavy rain, sea level rise or other condition.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a flood is defined as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is the policyholder's property) from one of the following:
- Overflow of inland or tidal waters;
- Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;
- Mudflow; or
- Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above.
For a more thorough explanation of floods and floodplains, please review National Flood Insurance Program – NFIP “Floodplain Management Requirements – A Study Guide and Desk Reference for Local Officials”.
- Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters outside of fire
- 90% of all presidential-declared U.S. natural disasters involve flooding
- Floods occur within all 50 states (they can occur any time, anywhere)
- Communities particularly at risk are those in low lying areas, coastal areas, or downstream from large bodies of water
- 25% of flooding occurs outside areas formally designated as being flood prone (i.e. Special Flood Hazard Areas)
- Nation-wide, flooding caused more than $4 billion a year in losses and 2,200 deaths in the 1990's
- There is a 26% chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30 year mortgage (more than 6 times the likelihood of a fire)
- Even minor flooding can cost homeowners thousands of dollars in losses and repairs
- Flood damage is virtually never covered by standard homeowners insurance
- Flood insurance purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is relatively inexpensive (the average premium for $100,000 coverage is a little over $300 per year at this writing)
- Today NFIP insures more than 4 million policyholders in more than 19,000 communities in the U.S
- Florida residents and businesses hold more than 40% of all flood insurance policies in the nation
Wetland areas and buffer areas adjacent to open spaces help reduce flood damage because floodwaters in a natural floodplain are permitted to spread over a large area and open spaces provide flood water storage. It is our job to help preserve natural areas. These natural areas also filter nutrients and impurities from stormwater runoff and promote infiltration and aquifer recharge. By preserving natural areas, fish and wildlife habitats are protected to provide breeding and feeding grounds.
Natural areas can be more effective at controlling or attenuating flooding and can be less expensive over the long run than traditional flood control structures. See also:
- A Unified National Program for Floodplain Management (FEMA-248 (1994)
- Protecting Floodplain Resources: A Guidebook for Communities (FEMA 268, June 1996)
Some Natural Functions of Floodplains:
Natural Flood and Erosion Control
- Provide flood storage and conveyance
- Reduce flood velocities
- Reduce peak flows
- Reduce sedimentation
Water Quality Maintenance
- Filter nutrients and impurities from runoff
- Process organic wastes
- Moderate temperature fluctuations
- Promote infiltration and aquifer recharge
- Reduce frequency and duration of low surface flows
- Promote vegetative growth through rich alluvial soils
- Maintain biodiversity
- Maintain integrity of ecosystems
Fish and Wildlife Habitats
- Provide breeding and feeding grounds
- Create and enhance waterfowl habitat
- Protect habitats for rare and endangered species
A community can lose a portion of its drainage system conveyance or storm water storage capacity due to illegal dumping, debris accumulation, soil erosion and sedimentation as well as overgrowth of vegetation. When this happens, flooding occurs more frequently and reaches higher elevations, subjecting properties otherwise protected to an unnecessary risk of damage. Extensive maintenance is necessary to ensure flood preparedness. Maintenance activities most commonly include ongoing monitoring, debris and sediment removal, and the correction of problem sites and damaged systems by field crews. The City of Boynton Beach has ongoing programs for structural and permanent changes to channels or basins (e.g. enlargement of openings, installation of grates to catch debris, installation of hard bank protection, construction of new retention basins, etc.) to reduce flooding and maintenance problems. You can practice good drainage maintenance by keeping grass clippings and other debris out of storm water drainage systems and drainage canals to prevent clogging and loss of storm water storage and conveyance capacity.
Did you know that it is illegal to throw ANYTHING into the lakes, canals or other water of the City? Do you know that nothing but stormwater is allowed to go into the storm drains located in streets, right-of-ways and parking lots? Dumping of materials into our waters or drains pollutes those waters, clogs our storm drains and leads to increased flooding in our neighborhoods. Please report dumping violations and observed canal obstructions to the City of Boynton Beach Utilities Department at (561) 742-6400. Quite often, maintenance actions are prompted by citizen complaints and reports. The vigilance of citizens is a critical element in identifying potential drainage problem.
Palm Beach County's drainage systems consist of a combination of natural drainageways and channels, engineered channels, storm sewers and ditches, and detention/retention basins contiguous to drainage systems.
Responsibility for inspection and maintenance of drainage systems falls to a variety of organizations depending on the type of system involved:
- South Florida Management District and the various water control districts provide oversight for the routine inspection of the drainage systems under their purview and for debris clearance and other maintenance activities.
- Storm drain maintenance falls within the purview of the County's Road & Bridge Division, municipal Public Works Departments, and the State Department of Transportation FDOT).
- Inspection, clearance, and maintenance of privately owned systems are the responsibilities of property owners and associations.
In rare instances, environmental regulations may prohibit removing natural debris and new growth from some drainageways.
The Water Management Challenge
Rainfall has been critical to South Florida’s history, feeding its natural wetlands and refreshing surface-water and groundwater reservoirs. Its water management issues differ from those of most other areas in the country. Where most areas are concerned with protecting “scarce” water resources, South Florida’s challenge is managing an overabundance of surface water. In order to drain and manage the excess water, hundreds of miles of canals, dikes, and levees have been built. Water management policies have created agricultural, tourism, and real estate industries whose success has fueled the state's population growth and taxed the seemingly abundant water supply. Now choices must be made between further population growth, environmental protection, and an adequate, safe water supply.
The area’s high hydrologic variation, low physical relief, and limited storage and conveyance capacities, make water management challenging. A delicate balance must be struck, dealing with extremes: flooding versus drought and open land versus crowded urban areas. Actions range from enforcing water restrictions during dry periods to precautionary or emergency flood management during wet periods and storm events.
With annual rainfall averaging over 60 inches (but varying widely), and more than 50 percent occurring in 4 months (June to September)… with the rainy season necessitating the movement of water away from populated areas for flood control and the storage of excess water necessary to meet population needs and demands during dry periods… water management is a complex challenge.
Flood control in Palm Beach County is dependent on a complex, integrated system of canals, waterways and flood control devices operated by the South Florida Water Management District, 20 drainage districts, and thousands of privately owned canals, retention/detention lakes and ponds.
The county's drainage system is designed to handle excess surface water in three stages. The "neighborhood or tertiary drainage systems" (made up of community lakes, ponds, street and yard drainage grates or culverts, ditches and canals) flow into the "local or secondary drainage system" (made up canals, structures, pumping stations and storage areas) and then into the "primary flood control system" (consisting of South Florida Water Management District canals and natural waterways and rivers), ultimately reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to help provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP. Participating communities, such as the City of Boynton Beach, agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding. The three (3) tenants to the NFIP are as follows:
Click here to view the NFIP fact sheet from FEMA.gov.
As we have learned, flood hazard areas are defined as any area that has a 1% chance of flooding in any given year (a.k.a. the 100 year flood). You should become informed as to the flood hazard potential for your property. The following options will help you find out if your property is located in a flood zone:
- The City of Boynton Beach Development Department will review the best available floodplain information and studies on file to determine the location of your property with respect to the floodplain. The Development Department can also provide site-specific information, such as problems not shown on the flood map, special flood-related hazards, historical flood information, elevation and property protection alternatives. You may contact the Development Department at 561-742-6350 for assistance with this information.
- If you would like to review FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) yourself, they are available for public viewing at the FEMA Map Service Center website.
- Palm Beach County Flood Zones Interactive Map - Individuals may look up the proximity of their property to flood zones by address here.
Did you know that there is a 26% chance a structure will flood over the life of a 30-year mortgage? You can protect your home and its contents through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Flood insurance is required by law in order to obtain federally secure financing to buy, build, or renovate a structure located in a flood hazard area. This financing includes federal grants, FHA and VA loans, and most conventional mortgage loans.
Flood insurance policies aren’t just for owners - renters can purchase policies too! Flood insurance policies are obtained through local property insurance agents. The agents may sell a policy from on the Write Your Own insurance companies or a “direct” policy through FEMA. Both approaches will result in the issuance of a “Standard Flood Insurance Policy” that meets all the requirements and rates set by FEMA. Flood insurance coverage is provided for insurable buildings and their contents for properties located in the City of Boynton Beach, which is a participating community of the NFIP. In fact, policy owners receive a 15% discount because the City participates in the NFIP Community Rating System (CRS). Call the Development Department at (561) 742-6350 if you have a question about flood insurance or go to the FloodSmart website at www.floodsmart.gov
The City of Boynton Beach participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In return for NFIP making flood insurance available to property owners, the City is required to adopt ordinances to manage development within 100-year floodplains to prevent increased flooding and minimize future flood damage. Flood Insurance Rate Maps, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are used as the basis for delineating the 100-year floodplain and identifying regulated land. Development is broadly defined by NFIP to include any man-made change to land, including grading, filling, dredging, extraction, storage, subdivision of land, as well as the construction or improvement of structures. Proposed development must not increase flooding or create a dangerous situation during flooding, especially on neighboring properties. If a structure is involved, it must be constructed to minimize damage during flooding. Permitting officials work with applicants to discourage development in the floodplain wherever possible, but when unavoidable, the effects of development must be minimized. The permitting review process may seem cumbersome at times, but it is a requirement for continued community participation in the NFIP. Violations can not only jeopardize a community's standing in the NFIP, but they can impact the ability of residents to obtain flood insurance. If you see development occurring without permits, protect your rights by reporting violators to the Building Division by calling 561-742-6350.
The Code of Federal Regulations
In order to participate in the NFIP, the City of Boynton Beach has adopted and currently enforces floodplain management regulations that meet or exceed the minimum NFIP standards and requirements. These standards are intended to prevent the loss of life and property, as well as economic and social hardships that result from flooding. The NFIP requirements can be found in Chapter 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR). 44 CFR requires that all new construction and substantial improvements of residential structures located within the floodplain (e.g., Special Flood Hazard Area) shall be elevated to the base flood elevation (BFE), which is the point in elevation that surface water resulting from a flood has a one (1) percent chance of equaling or exceeding that level in any given year. The BFE is the national standard used by the NFIP and all federal agencies for the purposes of requiring the purchase of flood insurance and regulating new development.
City of Boynton Beach Regulations
In addition to 44 CFR, the City of Boynton Beach has also adopted the City’s Flood Prevention Code, which can be found in the land development regulations (Part III, Chapter 4, Article X). While not required by the NFIP, each community is encouraged by FEMA to adopt higher regulatory standards, such as the freeboard requirement. Freeboard is simply requiring structures to be elevated above the BFE. Freeboard requirements for additions and/or substantial improvements require the existing building to be elevated to the base flood elevation only, which is still in compliance with 44 CFR. New building construction however, is required to be elevated at least one (1) foot above the BFE.
Elevation of New and Substantially Improved Structures
Damage to "new" and "substantially improved" floodplain structures is minimized by elevating the lowest floor of occupied areas a specified amount above the 100-year flood elevation. Substantially improved structures are those where the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvements equals or exceeds 50% of the building's market value. Substantially improved structures are subject to the same elevation standards as new structures.
To verify that a building has been properly elevated, the City of Boynton Beach requires the completion of an Elevation Certificate by a professional engineer or surveyor. After the lowest floor is in place, its elevation above sea level is determined by a survey. The Elevation Certificate is part of the permit record and must be submitted before the building may be occupied.
Further information on the requirements for floodplain development, the permitting process and Elevation Certificates can be obtained from the Building Division by calling 561-742-6350. Click building records to view Elevation Certificates that have been archived by street address, if available.
100-year flood: The flood having a 1% or greater annual probability of occurring.
500-year flood: The flood having a 0.2% or greater annual probability of occurring.
Base Flood: A flood having a 1-percent probability of being equaled or exceeded in any given year; also referred to as the 100-year flood.
Base Flood Elevation (BFE): Defined by FEMA as the elevation of the crest of the base or 100-year flood relative to mean sea level. BFE is not depth of flooding. To determine depth of flooding, you would need to subtract the lowest elevation of a particular property from the BFE.
Community Number: A 6-digit designation identifying each NFIP community. The first two numbers are the state code. The next four are the FIMA-assigned community number. An alphabetical suffix is added to a community number to identify revisions in the Flood Insurance Rate Map for that community.
Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM): An official map of a community, on which the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration has delineated both the Special Flood hazard Area's and the risk premium zones applicable to the community. Most FIRM's include detailed floodplain mapping for some or all of a community's floodplains.
Floodplain: Any land area susceptible to being inundated by floodwaters from any source.
Freeboard: A margin of safety added to the base flood elevation to account for waves, debris, miscalculations, or lack of data.
Panel: Panel number is numerical designation used to identify the FIRM Map associated with a given area. The first six digits of the Panel number is the community number.
Panel Date: This is the date recorded in the FEMA FMSIS database, which is associated with the given Panel Number.
Repetitive Loss Property: A property for which two or more National Flood Insurance Program losses of at least $1,000 each have been paid within any 10 year period since 1978. Download > City of Boynton Beach Repetitive Loss Area Analysis.
Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA): An area designated as within a "Special Flood Hazard Area" (or SFHA) on a FIRM. This is an area inundated by 1% annual chance flooding for which BFEs or velocity may have been determined. No distinctions are made between the different flood hazard zones that may be included within the SFHA. These may include Zones A, AE, AO, AH, A99, AR, V, or VE.
Flood zones are geographic areas that FEMA has defined according to varying levels of flood risk. These zones are depicted on the City’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or Flood Hazard Boundary Map. Each zone reflects the severity or type of flooding in the area.
Moderate to Low Risk Areas
In communities that participate in the NFIP, flood insurance is available to all property owners and renters in these zones:
B and X (shaded)
Area of moderate flood hazard, usually the area between the limits of the 100-year and 500-year floods. Are also used to designate base floodplains of lesser hazards, such as areas protected by levees from 100-year flood, or shallow flooding areas with average depths of less than one foot or drainage areas less than 1 square mile.
C and X (unshaded)
Area of minimal flood hazard, usually depicted on FIRMs as above the 500-year flood level.
High Risk Areas
In communities that participate in the NFIP, mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply to all of these zones:
Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding and a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Because detailed analyses are not performed for such areas; no depths or base flood elevations are shown within these zones.
The base floodplain where base flood elevations are provided. AE Zones are now used on new format FIRMs instead of A1-A30 Zones.
These are known as numbered A Zones (e.g., A7 or A14). This is the base floodplain where the FIRM shows a BFE (old format).
Areas with a 1% annual chance of shallow flooding, usually in the form of a pond, with an average depth ranging from 1 to 3 feet. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Base flood elevations derived from detailed analyses are shown at selected intervals within these zones.
River or stream flood hazard areas and areas with a 1% or greater chance of shallow flooding each year, usually in the form of sheet flow, with an average depth ranging from 1 to 3 feet. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Average flood depths derived from detailed analyses are shown within these zones.
Areas with a temporarily increased flood risk due to the building or restoration of a flood control system (such as a levee or a dam). Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements will apply, but rates will not exceed the rates for unnumbered A zones if the structure is built or restored in compliance with Zone AR floodplain management regulations.
Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding that will be protected by a Federal flood control system where construction has reached specified legal requirements. No depths or base flood elevations are shown within these zones.
High Risk – Coastal Areas
In communities that participate in the NFIP, mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply to all of these zones:
Coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage. No base flood elevations are shown within these zones.
VE, V1 - 30
Coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Base flood elevations derived from detailed analyses are shown at selected intervals within these zones.
Undetermined Risk Areas
Areas with possible but undetermined flood hazards. No flood hazard analysis has been conducted. Flood insurance rates are commensurate with the uncertainty of the flood risk.
The City of Boynton Beach CRS Class 6 rating became effective on October 1, 2017.
Flood insurance rates, which are calculated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) National Flood Insurance Program, are determined in part by the work that each community does to reduce the effects of flooding in the community. Each participating community is given points for the totality of its efforts, and those points determine a classification in the Community Rating System (CRS). The City of Boynton Beach had achieved a Class 7 rating, saving its residents and businesses 15% annually on typical flood insurance policies. The newly achieved Class 6 would increase savings to 20%. This reduction applies to all properties located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Flood insurance is also available to residents and business outside the SFHA with a 10% discount.
The Community Rating System (CRS) is one of the best programs for encouraging and recognizing broad-based local flood hazard mitigation programs. The CRS is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP requirements. The CRS, which is managed by the Insurance Services Office, Inc. on behalf of FEMA, is a “win-win” program because participating in it helps reduce the cost of flood insurance premiums for all policy holders as well as reducing our vulnerability to floods. The discounts are given to policy owners because the City of Boynton Beach meets the three goals of the CRS program. The goals of the CRS program are to:
- Reduce flood losses;
- Facilitate accurate insurance rating; and
- Promote the awareness of flood insurance.
The CRS classes for local communities are based on 18 creditable activities, organized under four categories.
- Public Information
- Mapping and Regulations
- Flood Damage Reduction
- Flood Preparedness
The FEMA CRS Resource Center is now available to the public. You can check out the FEMA fact sheet or review the list of all communities participating in the CRS by clicking here. The CRS premium discounts from FEMA are shown below in Table 2.
TABLE 2. CRS PREMIUM DISCOUNTS
SFHA (Zones A, AE, A1-A30, V, V1-V30, AO, and AH): Discount varies depending on class.
SFHA (Zones A9, AR, AR/A, AR/AE, AR/A1-A30, AR/AH, and AR/AO): 10% discount for Classes 1-6; 5% discount for Classes 7-9.*
Non-SFHA (Zones B, C, X, D): 10% discount for Classes 1-6; 5% discount for Classes 7-9.
* In determining CRS Premium Discounts, all AR and A99 Zones are treaed as non-SFHAs.
Flood insurance premium rates are discounted in increments of 5%. For example; a Class 1 community would receive a 45% premium discount, while a Class 9 community would receive a 5% discount (a Class 10 is not participating in the CRS and receives no discount). The City of Boynton Beach is currently a Class 6 rating. This means that policyholders receive a 20% reduction of flood insurance premiums. Click here for more information and resources regarding the CRS program.
One protection measure that costs nothing is the simple task of elevating your valuables, if flooding is predicted. This involves putting them on counters, upper cabinets, attics, or upper floors.
Measures to protect a property from flood damage include retrofitting, re-grading your yard, and correcting local drainage problems. As the City of Boynton Beach is located within a hurricane region, consider installing storm shutters and reinforcing your garage door. If your property has a low finished floor elevation, you may consider retrofitting your structure. Retrofitting can include elevating the structure, flood-proofing doors and walls, re-grading, or installing earthen berms and/or concrete walls. Although these remedies may require a considerable investment, they could help protect your property during flooding. Call the Development Department at (561) 742-6350 for property protection advice specific to your property. Staff can make a site visit to your property to discuss drainage problems and to offer advice.
Plan for a Flood
Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please see the "Family Disaster Plan" section for general family planning information. Develop flood- specific planning. Learn about your area's flood risk by contacting the local Red Cross chapter, emergency management office, local National Weather Service office, or the Building Division.
If you are at risk from floods:
- Talk to your insurance agent. Homeowners' policies do not cover flooding. Ask about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- Use a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone-alert feature, or a portable, battery-powered radio (or television) for updated emergency information.
- Develop an evacuation plan. Everyone in your family should know where to go if they have to leave. Trying to make plans at the last minute can be upsetting and create confusion.
- Discuss floods with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing floods ahead of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.
What to Tell Children
- If you come upon floodwaters, stop, turn around, and go another way. Climb to higher ground. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can knock you off your feet. Many people are swept away wading through floodwaters, resulting in injury or death.
- Stay away from flooded areas. Even if it seems safe, floodwaters may still be rising.
- Never try to walk, swim, drive, or play in floodwater. You may not be able to see on the surface how fast floodwater is moving or see holes and submerged debris.
- If you are in a vehicle and become surrounded by water, if you can get out safely, do so immediately and move to higher ground. Vehicles can be swept away in two feet of water.
- Watch out for snakes in areas that were flooded. Flood waters flush snakes from their homes.
- Stay away from lake and canal banks in flooded and recently flooded areas. The soaked banks often become unstable due to heavy rainfall and can suddenly give way, tossing you into rapidly moving water.
- Never play around high water, storm drains, ditches, ravines, or culverts. It is very easy to be swept away by fast moving water.
- Throw away all food that has come into contact with flood waters. Contaminated flood water contains bacteria and germs. Eating foods exposed to flood waters can make you very sick.
How to Protect Your Property
- Keep insurance policies, documents, and other valuables in a safe-deposit box. You may need quick, easy access to these documents. Keep them in a safe place less likely to be damaged during a flood.
- Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home. Some communities do not permit building in known floodplains. If there are no restrictions, and you are building in a floodplain, take precautions, making it less likely your home will be damaged during a flood.
- Raise your furnace, water heater, and electric panel to higher floors or the attic if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded. Raising this equipment will prevent damage. An undamaged water heater may be your best source of fresh water after a flood.
- Install check valves in building sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home. As a last resort, when floods threaten, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.
- Construct barriers such as levees, berms, and flood walls to stop flood water from entering the building. Permission to construct such barriers may be required by local building codes. Check building codes and ordinances for safety requirements.
- Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage through cracks.
- Consult with a construction professional for further information if these and other damage reduction measures can be taken. Check local building codes and ordinances for safety requirements.
- Contact your local emergency management office for more information on mitigation options to further reduce potential flood damage. Your local emergency management office may be able to provide additional resources and information on ways to reduce potential damage.
Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
Flood-specific supplies should include the following:
- Disaster Supplies Kit basics
- Evacuation Supply Kit
If you live in a frequently flooded area, stockpile emergency building materials. These include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, hammer and saw, pry bar, sand, shovels, and sandbags.
What to Do Before Flooding Occurs
- If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood. Floods happen as the ground becomes saturated.
- Use a NOAA Weather Radio or a portable, battery-powered radio (or television) for updated emergency information. Local stations provide the best advice for your particular situation.
- Listen for distant thunder. In some types of terrain, runoff from a faraway thunderstorm could be headed your way.
What to Do if You Are Driving During a Flood
- Avoid already flooded areas, and areas subject to sudden flooding. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water, or people playing in high water. The depth of water is not always obvious. The roadbed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped. Rapidly rising water may stall the engine, engulf the vehicle and its occupants, and sweep them away. Look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges, and low areas. Two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.
- If you are driving and come upon rapidly rising waters, turn around and find another route. Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. If your route is blocked by flood waters or barricades, find another route. Barricades are put up by local officials to protect people from unsafe roads. Driving around them can be a serious risk.
- If your vehicle becomes surrounded by water or the engine stalls, and if you can safely get out, abandon your vehicle immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles. When a vehicle stalls in the water, the water's momentum is transferred to the car. The lateral force of a foot of water moving at 10 miles per hour is about 500 pounds on the average automobile. The greatest effect is buoyancy - for every foot that water rises up the side of a car, it displaces 1,500 pounds of the car's weight. So, two (2) feet of water moving at 10 miles per hour will float virtually any car. Many persons have been swept away by flood waters upon leaving their vehicles, which are later found without much damage. Use caution when abandoning your vehicle, and look for an opportunity to move away quickly and safely to higher ground.
What to Do After a Flood
- Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital or clinic. Contaminated flood waters lead to a greater possibility of infection. Severe injuries will require medical attention.
- Help a neighbor who may require special assistance - infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
- Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations, and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as contaminated waters, crumbled roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.
- Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or television stations and return home only when authorities indicate it is safe to do so. Flood dangers do not end when the water begins to recede; there may be flood-related hazards within your community, which you could hear about from local broadcasts.
- Stay out of any building if flood waters remain around the building. Flood waters often undermine foundations, causing sinking, floors can crack or break and buildings can collapse.
- Avoid entering ANY building (home, business, or other) before local officials have said it is safe to do so. Buildings may have hidden damage that makes them unsafe. Gas leaks or electric or waterline damage can create additional problems.
- Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury. Check with your utility company now about where broken lines should be reported.
- Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can cause fires.
- When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may have occurred where you least expect it. Watch carefully every step you take.
- Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
- Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants, and building.
- Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
- Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Cracks and damage to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.
- Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials may travel from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.
- Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
- Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
- Check for sewage and waterline damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
- Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, which may have come into buildings with the flood waters. Use a stick to poke through debris. Flood waters flush snakes and many animals out of their homes.
- Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.
- Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
After Returning Home
- Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters. Some canned foods may be salvageable. If the cans are dented or damaged, throw them away. Food contaminated by flood waters can cause severe infections.
- If water is of questionable purity, boil or add bleach, and distill drinking water before using. (See information on water treatment under the "Disaster Supplies Kit" section.) Wells inundated by flood waters should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority. Ill health effects often occur when people drink water contaminated with bacteria and germs.
- Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped completely in a short period of time, pressure from water- saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.
- Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.
- Analysis of Southeast Florida Sea Level Rise
- American Red Cross – Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
- FEMA Map Service Center
- Florida Division of Emergency Management
- National Flood Insurance Program
- National Weather Service
- Palm Beach County Flood Awareness
- Palm Beach County Flood Zones Interactive Map
- Palm Beach Post
- South Florida Water Management District Emergency Management
This information provided from FEMA.
Returning to flood damaged buildings requires careful planning. The following tips are designed to assist impacted individuals when they are able to reach their flooded property.
Anticipate what you will need
• Personal protective equipment including safety shoes or boots (rubber boots may be best if you are not sure if the water has been pumped out), work gloves, eye protection, rubber gloves for cleaning or when using sanitizing chemicals, a hard hat, and respiratory protection in case there is mold or bacteria contamination (respirators with HEPA cartridges or dust masks with a rating of N-95 or higher should be used). These can be obtained from hardware stores or home improvement stores. If materials containing asbestos are suspected, it will be necessary to use a respirator with a HEPA cartridge in accordance with Federal requirements.
• Tools for entry and cleaning such as a pry bar, shovel, and a flashlight with extra batteries (Figure 1)
• Camera or video recorder for recording conditions for use in insurance claims
• Hand and face cleaning supplies such as alcohol swabs or hand sanitizer gel
• Cleaning supplies for salvagable materials including drinking water, chemical cleaners/sanitizers, sponges, buckets, and wiping rags
• Packing supplies to protect fragile salvaged items during transport
• First aid kit
• Pen and paper, tape, scissors, and small plastic storage bags for writing down serial numbers and saving samples of discarded materials to support insurance claims
Be realistic about your limitations
• Even initial assessment and salvage can be hot, heavy work.
• If at all possible, work with another person while in the house. Unforeseen hazards can exist, so having help nearby is prudent.
• Avoid entry, even with personal protective equipment, if you have serious pre-existing health issues such as Asthma/allergies, heart problems, compromised immune system, open cuts or wounds
• Get help moving large items such as furniture and appliances.
• Do not underestimate the impact of psychological shock and physical effort:
• Identify someone in advance who you can talk to about your situation and feelings
• See the resource section for some potential contacts
Check the situation for hazards
• Downed power lines
• Gas leaks
• Evidence of structural damage such as sagging ceilings, large wall or floor cracks, walls out of plumb, etc.
• Unstable materials
• Furniture and even vehicles can be stacked in hazardous positions (Figure 2)
• Chemical spills, such as paints, solvents, lawn fertilizers, pesticides
• Vermin such as snakes, rats, fire ants, bee colonies, etc.
Photos or videos are best
• Shoot multiple pictures of each room from different corners
• Make sure the photos will be clear before changing the conditions
• Use a camera with a time/date stamp for photos if possible. Make written notes of the dates that you visited the building. Save samples of high-quality contents, such as carpets, to support insurance claims.
Extract the salvageable items
- Focus on high value items that were not water impacted and items that have special significance. If an entire item cannot be saved, consider parts that could be saved. For example, if a family heirloom such as an antique chest cannot be saved, consider saving the non-porous handles or hinges for use on a replacement piece. Porous items that were not water logged or moldy should be the second priority.
- Non-porous items such as glassware, silverware, and plastic furniture that need to be cleaned should be separated. (Note: Contaminated items should be cleaned on site if possible. Transporting wet/contaminated items presents the risk of cross contamination of the vehicle and location where the item is moved.)
- Be aware of termites. If a termite infestation is found, consult a professional exterminator. When discarding or salvaging wood, paper, and other cellulose, protect your property and keep subterranean termites from spreading. For additional information, refer to the Louisiana State University AgCenter.
Do what you can to salvage the contents on the property. See American Red Cross, Repairing Your Flooded Home.