Farmstead under Water in western Iowa.
Photo Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation
Two trucks washed off the road in western Iowa.
Photo Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation
Interstates 680 and 29 under water in western Iowa.
Photo Courtesy of the Iowa State Patrol Air Wing
Interstate 29 after the flood waters from the Missouri River receded.
Photo Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation

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Floods & Flash Floods: Staying Safe

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Staying Safe


Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm-related hazard. Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. These drownings are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around barriers that warn you the road is flooded.

Above all else, if you come to a flooded road when you are driving or walking, simply remember to

You will not know the depth of the water nor will you know the condition of the road under the water!

Here are some simple rules to remember when you are at home or out driving and flood waters threaten:

  At Home:

  • Pay Attention to the Weather: Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio, local National Weather Service website, or your favorite news source for vital weather related information. Smart phones with certain third party weather alert applications installed are also good sources of information.
  • Do Not Play in the Flood Waters: This is especially true for children and pets. Flood waters may contain snakes, insects, sharp objects and debris, oil, gasoline, industrial waste, and raw sewage. Seek immediate medical attention if anyone in your family becomes injured or ill. Wash hands with soap and clean water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer if you come in contact with flood waters.
  • Farm Under WaterIf flooding threatens your home, get to higher ground! Try to stay out of the flood waters as much as possible and do not go to other areas that could flood. This includes dips, low spots, drainage ditches, canyons, washes, etc.
    • If you have time, secure your home and turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Do not walk through moving water: Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • After the Flood:
    • Clean all items touched by flood waters, including children’s toys. Use one cup of household bleach mixed with five gallons of water.
    • Throw away items that cannot be washed such as mattresses, stuffed animals, baby toys, and wood cutting boards, as well as food that may have come into contact with flood waters.
    • Wash hands often with soap and clean water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer when handling flood debris.


  On the Road:

  • Flooded Roads are Difficult to Spot at Night: If driving through an area that is under a flood or flash flood warning or has recently received heavy rainfall, try to stay on main roads and pay close attention to the conditions around you. Highway underpasses and dips in the road are excellent collectors of flood waters. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Trucks Washed off RoadDO NOT DRIVE ACROSS A FLOODED ROAD: Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Never attempt to cross flowing streams. Remember, Turn Around Don't Drown™
    • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
    • It only takes 18 inches of water to lift your car or SUV.
    • Once your vehicle becomes buoyant, the water will easily push it sideways. Most vehicles will then tend to roll over, trapping those inside and washing them downstream.
  • I680Road Beds may be Washed out Under Flood Waters: NEVER drive through flooded roadways - you do not know the condition of the road under the water. Here is an example of what a road bed can turn into when flooded (taken after the flood waters receded)
  • If Caught in a Flood, Abandon Your Car: If flood waters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.
  • If Camping: Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions. Move to higher ground if heavy rain or rising water occurs. Creeks and streams can rise very rapidly during heavy rainfall. Carry a portable weather radio in case a watch or warning is issued. Since water flows downstream, you could experience a flash flood even if you haven't received any rain.
Background Images Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.