Winter Storm Ready

It's flood season. Sonoma Ready, Sonoma Strong, Department of Emergency ManagementPreparing for Floods, Mudslides and Debris Flow This Storm Season

Winter Storm Season is here, ensure you are ready! Floods are the most common natural hazard in the United States, and recent fires make this storm season of particular risk for landslides and debris flows. Storms, floods and slides can cause property damage, loss of utilities, and loss of life, so plan now and be prepared to act. Review your emergency supply kit, make a plan for the whole family, help your neighbors get ready, and make sure you can stay informed and be alerted to hazards in your area. Visit SoCoEmergency.org for more information on how to be ready this winter.

Key tips to stay safe:

If You are Under a Flood Warning, Find Safe Shelter Right Away

  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
    • Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water.
  • Determine how best to protect yourself based on the type of flooding.
    • Evacuate if told to do so.
    • Move to higher ground or a higher floor.
    • Stay where you are.

Learn more at SoCoEmergency.org/prepare »

Preparing before Flood

  • Sign up for SoCo Alert
  • Know types of flood risk in your area. Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center for information.
    • If flash flooding is a risk in your location, then monitor potential signs, such as heavy rain.
  • Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter in place plans, and flash flood response.
  • Make sure your Go Bag is ready in case you have to leave immediately, or if water and power services are turned
  • Keep in mind each family member’s specific needs, including medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets.
  • Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment in case of power outages.
  • Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy. It typically takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect and can protect the life you’ve built. Homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding. Get flood coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container and create a password-protected digital copies.
  • Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves. Consider a sump pump with a battery.
  • Check in with neighbors who may need assistance getting ready and evacuating.

During a Flood

  • Depending on where you are, as well as the impact and the warning time of flooding, go to the safe location that you previously identified.
  • Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.
  • Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown!
  • If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, then stay inside. If water is rising inside the vehicle, then seek refuge on the roof.
  • If trapped in a building, then go to its highest level. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising floodwater. Go on the roof only if necessary. Once there, signal for help.

Preparing for a Potential Landslide

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a landslide or debris flow:

  • Prepare for landslides by following proper land-use procedures – avoid building near steep slopes, close to mountain edges, near drainage ways or along natural erosion valleys.
  • Become familiar with the land around you. Learn whether debris flows have occurred in your area by contacting local city or county officials. Slopes where debris flows have occurred in the past are likely to experience them in the future.
  • Get a ground assessment of your property if possible.
  • Consult a professional for advice on appropriate preventative measures for your home or business, such as flexible pipe fittings, which can better resist breakage.
  • Protect your property by planting ground cover on slopes and building retaining walls.
  • In mudflow areas, build channels or deflection walls to direct the flow around buildings. Be aware, however, if you build walls to divert debris flow and the flow lands on a neighbor’s property, you may be liable for damages.
  • If you are at risk of property damage from a landslide, talk to your insurance agent. Debris flow may be covered by flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Recognize Landslide Warning Signs

  • Changes can occur in landscape such as patterns of storm-water drainage on slopes (especially the places where runoff water converges) land movement, small slides, flows, or progressively leaning trees.
  • Doors or windows stick or jam for the first time.
  • New cracks appear in plaster, tile, brick, or foundations.
  • Outside walls, walks, or stairs begin pulling away from the building.
  • Slowly developing, widening cracks appear on the ground or on paved areas such as streets or driveways.
  • Underground utility lines break.
  • Bulging ground appears at the base of a slope.
  • Water breaks through the ground’s surface in new locations.
  • Fences, retaining walls, utility poles, and/or trees tilt or move.
  • A faint rumbling sound that increases in volume is noticeable as the landslide nears.
  • The ground slopes downward in one direction and may begin shifting in that direction under your feet.
  • Unusual sounds, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together, might indicate moving debris.
  • Collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks, and other indications of possible debris flow can be seen when driving (embankments along roadsides are particularly susceptible to landslides).

During a Landslide

  • During a severe storm, stay alert and awake. Make sure your communications devices are charged and ready if power goes out.
  • Listen to local news stations or NOAA Radio for warnings of heavy rainfall.
  • Listen for unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together.
  • Move away from the path of a landslide or debris flow as quickly as possible. The danger from a mudflow increases near stream channels and with prolonged heavy rains. Mudflows can move faster than you can walk or run. Look upstream before crossing a bridge and do not cross the bridge if a mudflow is approaching.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.
  • If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow and notice whether the water changes from clear to muddy. Such changes may mean there is debris flow activity upstream so be prepared to move quickly.
  • Curl into a tight ball and protect your head if escape is not possible.

After a Landslide

  • Go to a friend or family member’ s home or a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home.
  • Stay away from the slide area. There may be danger of additional slides.
  • Check SoCoEmergency.org for the latest emergency information.
  • Watch for flooding, which may occur after a landslide or debris flow. Floods sometimes follow landslides and debris flows because they may both be started by the same event.
  • If there are known injured or trapped persons near the slide, without entering the direct slide area, direct rescuers to their locations.
  • Be aware of and report broken utility lines as well as damaged roadways and railways to appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
  • Check a building’s foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage to assess the safety of an area.
  • Replant damaged ground as soon as possible since erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding and additional landslides in the near future.
  • Seek advice from a geotechnical expert for evaluating landslide hazards or designing corrective techniques to reduce landslide risk.