Living On A Floodplain, Checklist for Not Getting Caught With Your Pants Down

You've found the perfect house in the country, it's everything you've been looking for, and it's in the floodplain. If this is the home for you, then be prepared to do a little research prior to buying or renting.

We found the perfect little farm on a 30 acre peninsula to rent. We were told it was on the floodplain but nothing to worry about as it had been raised up and was on a higher foundation. It was rural and in the country where we wanted to be.

We thought the openings in the foundation were for the dogs or storage. We never gave any thought that it might be for the river to flow through. There were other farms along the river but we didn't think to talk with any of them. Two weeks after moving in we woke up to the sound of water lapping on the side of the house. We were caught with 'our pants down', totally unprepared. That was the first and last time we were unprepared.

As my husband stated, "the river is merely reclaiming her river bed for a short time." If you are going to live on or next to the river or in the valley, you need to accept that and be prepared.

Checklist to Decide if This is Where You Want to Live:

  • Talk with the current residents or tenants of the house and ask them how often it floods, how high does the water get, how long does the water stay up, has the water ever come in the house, where can you park your car so its out of the water, and any other questions you have.
  • Talk with neighbors and ask them the same questions and also ask them how long they have lived there, and any other pertinent information they can share with you.
  • Is it safe to remain in your home during a flood?
  • Talk with the local fire department and find out everything you can from them. Ask what happens if you need to be evacuated during the flood.
  • Get the number for flood control and get the data for your address. Find out the river levels and patterns, etc.
  • If a small community, talk with the local barber, they always seem to know everyone and everything.
  • Is there a flood warning system, what does it consist of?
  • Check the house for any structure damage.
  • Will your employer understand your living on the floodplain, being flooded in for days at a time and having to leave work when the river is at a certain height so you can get home before the road goes under?
  • There's also the matter of flood insurance and what flooding does to the value of the property.

Get your answers and look at the pros and cons of living on the flood plain. Is this still the perfect home for you? Can you handle living on a floodplain?

We got our answers after the first flood, but for us it wouldn't have made a difference as this was where we wanted to live. Flooding was just a minor inconvenience that could happen anywhere from two to six times a year from November through March depending on how much rain we received. It was an old two-story farmhouse in the center of the major flood traffic area.

When the river was over the banks it would start flowing right across the peninsula between the house and the barn. The barn was on high ground, the animals, cars, and machinery were dry. The house was on a foundation and the water flowed through the openings in it. It was similar to being in a houseboat in the middle of a lake. The boat was tied to the front porch and we would boat to the barn to do chores.

We were fortunate to have understanding employers and were able to work from home.

Checklist for Living on the Floodplain:

  • Keep your pantry or cupboards stocked with canned food items and bottled water. Have an excess of bottled water. If you have a well, the water may be cut off or contaminated.
  • Have a good supply of paper plates, disposable glasses and silverware.
  • Photograph all personal property and possessions for a complete inventory.
  • Keep valuables, insurance papers, and legal documents in a dry, secure place.
  • Keep an excess of batteries for flashlights, radios, and lanterns.
  • Have mouse and rat traps available. Rodents that are losing their homes may try to move in with you.
  • Have a camp stove and a large cooler accessible. If you lose power or have to turn it off due to water coming in, you can keep food in the cooler and cook on the camp stove.
  • If you have kids make sure there are plenty of things for them to do while being flooded in. Make this a family time and fun time for them so they won't be frightened.
  • Listen to flood control by phone or computer and be prepared to move items up and out of the water, if it looks like water is going to come in your home.
  • If water is going to come in your home, shut off the electricity, gas, and water.

Checklist for After the Flood and Water has Receded:

  • Call your insurance agent if you sustained damage.
  • Test and purify your water.
  • Before cleaning up, photograph all damage caused by the flooding. Your insurance agent and FEMA will need it.
  • Clean up as soon as possible inside and outside.
  • If water came in, open the windows and doors to bring in fresh air, muck out the mud and silt with a shovel.
  • Disinfect everything the water has touched: floors, walls, household items, etc.
  • Check your appliances for water, dry them out, disinfect, and service them prior to using.

Please remember, just because you haven't flooded yet, does not mean you won't flood at some point. When you live on the floodplain, it's best to be prepared.

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