Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S. — because of this, it is important for you to know what to do before, during and after you are caught in a flood event, including a flash flood.
Scroll for a complete guide on what you should know if you find yourself in a flooding situation. For the latest Storm Team 4 weather reports, click here.
Flooding, as defined by the National Weather Service, is the temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry.

A subcategory of flooding is that of a flash flood, which essentially is a sudden and violent flood that can take mere minutes to hours to develop. Keep in mind that it is possible to experience a flash flood in areas that did not immediately receive rain.
But what is the difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning issued by the National Weather Service? According to NWS:
Ready.gov, a national public service campaign launched in 2003 to educate on how prepare for, respond to and mitigate natural and man-made disasters emergencies, says that preparing for a flood includes “making a plan for your household, including your pets, so that you and your family know what to do, where to go, and what you will need to protect yourselves from flooding. Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans, and flash flood response. Gather supplies, including non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and water for several days, in case you must leave immediately or if services are cut off in your area.”
It is also important to store vital documents in a waterproof container, as well as set up password-protected digital copies, Ready.gov advises, adding that valuables should be moved to higher levels, drains and gutters should be decluttered, and that check valves should be installed. Ready.gov also advises to consider a sump pump with a battery to move water from your basement out of your home.
Additionally, if you live in an area prone to flooding, a flood insurance policy is recommended. Keep in mind that homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding and it usually takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect so make sure to purchase the policy before a disaster, according to Ready.gov.
Water levels and water flow rates can change quickly and without warning during a flood.
Because of this, the NWS advises everyone to remain vigilant and informed by monitoring local weather conditions through radio or television, as well as through local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions regarding flooding.
According to the National Weather Service, during a flood:
New Jersey’s Office of Emergency Management also lists basic safety tips about flooding, including:
Meanwhile, aside from the above safety tips, New York State’s Office of Emergency Management also advises residents to know where shelters are located. Additionally, before there is flooding, one should disconnect electrical appliances that cannot be moved. However, DO NOT touch them if you are wet or standing in water, and if you are told to shut off water, gas, or electrical services before evacuating your residence do so.
It is important to stress that you must not try to drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade.
Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed-out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc, NWS warns.
To put into perspective just how dangerous it is to drive into flooded roadways, NWS says that a vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds 12 inches of water can float a car or small SUV. Meanwhile, 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles.
Ready.gov also advises drivers to stay off bridges found over fast-moving water because the force of the water can wash these structures away without warning.
However, if you are trapped in a building during flooding conditions, get to the highest level, according to Ready.gov. Only go onto the roof if necessary. Once there signal for help. However, do not climb get into a closed attic to avoid getting trapped by rising floodwater.
If you are on foot, the New Jersey’s Office of Emergency Management stresses that you should not walk across a flowing stream if the water is higher than your ankles. If you encounter this, stop, turn around and go another way. Additionally, never try to walk or swim through swift water, instead seek higher ground.
Being aware of your surrounding is just as essential after a flood as before and during one. Ready.gov advises:
Track live radar and see the latest timing and potential impacts here.