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Flooding is a widespread, common, and costly natural hazard in Oregon and across the United States. It is the leading cause of death from natural hazards in the U.S. Flood effects can be local, impacting just a small area such as a neighborhood. They can also be very large and affect entire river basins. Some floods develop slowly. Flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes.

Most residents of Washington County have experienced flood conditions, as they occur often in the Willamette Valley. However, sometimes flood waters rise above what we have all grown to think of as common. It is important to make a plan for what your family will do and prepare your home for all degrees of flood conditions.

Prepare Your Home Before the Flood
  • Avoid building in a floodplain. If you are in a floodplain elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel if susceptible to flooding.
  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Construct barriers (levees, berms, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the building.
  • Seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.
  • Plan ahead for the protection of pets and livestock.
  • Review your home insurance policy. Standard homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding. To learn more, visit the National Flood Insurance Program website.
During a Flood
  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Remember that a:
    • Flood Watch means flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, commercial radio, or television for information
    • Flash Flood Watch means flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground and listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information
    • Flood Warning means flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
    • Flash Flood Warning means a flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.
  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture and move essential items to an upper floor.
  • 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.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. 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.
Driving Flood Facts
  • Almost half of all flash flood fatalities occur in vehicles.
  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles and pick-up trucks.
  • If you come upon a barricaded or flooded road, turn around and find a safer route.
After a Flood
  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
  • Discard canned, bottled, or sealed-in-plastic food items that have been dented or dislodged and knocked into things.

Looking for more information about what to do after a flood? Review the Red Cross's Repairing Your Flooded Home.

To learn more about how you can prepare or insure your home, visit the National Flood Insurance Program website.

The Hazard-Specific Information section was created using information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross.