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Purdue Extension helps homeowners, farmers guard against flooding

September 10, 2014
Flooded area near house.

Homeowners and farmers can protect their equipment, other belongings and even lives by understanding that floods can occur in unlikely places, a Purdue Extension disaster education specialist says.

"If you don't think it can happen to you, keep in mind that it has happened to others who thought the same thing," said Steve Cain, Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network homeland security project director.

Parts of Indiana have been hit with deluges of rain in recent days and weeks, raising levels of waterways, especially the Wabash River in western Indiana. The Wabash was at 90 percent capacity this week, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's "Water Watch."

Flooding already has been reported in Porter County in northwest Indiana, Clinton County in central Indiana and Jay and Blackford Counties in the eastern part of the state.

Cain has seen flooding involving more than 60,000 homes since 2008. Some of that involved homes that had never flooded before. He said that when such flooding occurs, it is usually for two reasons:

* Too much rain has fallen on nearby property too quickly. That happened in Jay County this year and in Shelbyville in 2008. Ten to 18 inches of rain in a few days caused flooding in unlikely areas - and not just from overflowing waterways.

* New construction of anything from a wall to a home can result in rain runoff to a home that has never flooded before. Cain said homeowners and farmers should take note of recent changes in landscaping, buildings and other structures around the home or farm. Flood insurance may be the only short-term solution to mitigate this type of damage, he said.

"In the long run, examining the potential for flooding from landscape or building changes and taking steps to prevent water from flowing into the home may prevent flooding," he said. "Also, becoming aware of community planning and how it may affect widespread flooding is important as we experience more varied weather."

Purdue Extension offers the free publication First Steps to Flood Recovery for homeowners. It is available at Purdue Extension's The Education Store at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?Item_Number=ACS-101-W.

Farmers and agricultural retailers can learn how to prepare for a flood by reading Plan Today for Tomorrow's Flood, also offered in The Education Store at https://mdc.itap.purdue.edu/item.asp?itemID=20037#.UrR1a2RDsSh.

"These publications can help us prepare for not only the worst-case scenarios but also less-extreme flooding situations that can still can severely damage property, equipment and home furnishings and create unsafe conditions," Cain said.

As an example, he explained that farmers storing any hazardous products, such as gasoline, diesel, pesticides and fertilizer, can avoid serious problems by moving them to higher ground or a few feet off the ground, or strapping down their containers so they don't float away. Likewise, homeowners should consider raising water heaters, furnaces and washing machines off the basement floor to better protect them from flooding.

But the primary concern, Cain said, should be protecting lives. He said motorists should be wary of driving through a flooded street because of the difficulty in assessing the depth of the water and how strongly it is flowing. He noted that disaster experts often give this advice: "Turn around, don't drown."

"Indiana has experienced fatalities because people have underestimated the power of flowing water or cannot see road hazards covered by muddy water," Cain said.

More flood resources are available on Purdue Extension's Floods and Storms webpage at: https://ag.purdue.edu/extension/eden/Pages/flood-info.aspx.

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