top of page

Prepare in a Year - Floods

Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters. Floods can cause loss of life and damage to structures, crops, land, flood control structures, roads, and utilities.

Although floods can happen at any time during the year, there are typical seasonal patterns for flooding in Washington state, based on the variety of natural processes that cause floods:

Washington State is subject to catastrophic flooding from several different flood sources:

1) Heavy rainfall on wet or frozen ground, before a snowpack has accumulated, typically causes fall and early winter floods.

2) Rainfall combined with melting of the low elevation snowpack typically causes winter and early spring floods.

3) Late spring floods in Eastern Washington result primarily from melting of the snowpack.

4) Thunderstorms typically can cause a flash flood during the summer in Eastern Washington; on rare occasions, thunderstorms embedded in winter-like rainstorms cause flash floods in Western Washington.

Washington State is subject to catastrophic flooding from several different flood sources:

1) Overbank flooding from rivers and streams,

2) Coastal storm surge flooding,

3) Local stormwater drainage flooding, and

4) Flooding from failures of dams, reservoirs or levees.

5) Other flood source - subsidence, tsunamis and seiches

If you live in an area where floods occur, you should know the following:


  • Plan for evacuation including where you are going to go and the route you will follow.

  • Prepare your home for a flood. Contact your local building department or office of emergency management for information.

  • Purchase flood insurance.

  • Keep all insurance policies and a list of valuable items in a safe place.

  • Take photos or a videotape of the valuables you keep in your home.

  • Listen to your radio or television for reports of flood danger.

  • Keep your car filled with gas.


  • Do not try to walk or drive through flooded areas. Water can be deeper than it appears, and water levels rise quickly. Follow official emergency evacuation routes. If your car stalls in floodwater, get out quickly and move to higher ground.

  • Stay away from moving water; moving water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Cars are easily swept away in just two feet of water.

  • Stay away from disaster areas unless authorities ask for volunteers.

  • Stay away from downed power lines.

  • If your home is flooded, turn the utilities off until emergency officials tell you it is safe to turn them on. Do not pump the basement out until floodwater recedes. Avoid weakened floors, walls and rooftops.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with floodwaters.


  • Wear gloves and boots when cleaning up.

  • Open all doors and windows. Use fans, if possible, to air out the building.

  • Wash all clothes and linens in hot water.

  • Discard mattresses and stuffed furniture; they can’t be adequately cleaned.

  • Wash dirt and mud from walls, counters and hard surfaced floors with soap and water. Disinfect by wiping surfaces with a solution of one cup bleach per gallon of water.

  • Discard all food that has come into contact with floodwater. Canned food is alright, but thoroughly wash the can before opening.

  • If your well is flooded, your tap water is probably unsafe. Until your water is safe, use clean bottled water.

  • Learn how to purify water. If you have a well, learn how to decontaminate it.

  • Do not use your septic system when there is standing water on the ground around it. The ground below will not absorb water from sinks or toilets. When the soil has dried, it is probably safe again to use your septic system. To be sure, contact your local health department.

  • When floodwaters have receded, watch out for weakened road surfaces.

WA State Flood Hazard Profile
Download PDF • 5.76MB


12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page