As the days warm, become longer, and we enter tornado and severe weather season, this is a reminder to be ready for all the seasonal hazards, including possible flooding from the melting snow and rainfall. Flooding is one of the most common and most costly natural hazards in our state. In 2020 St. Croix County experienced one of the worst flash floods, taking one life, displacing many from their homes and businesses, and costing millions of dollars in damages throughout the county. While we cannot always stop waters from rising, the following information and tips can help improve safety.
If you are experiencing an emergency dial 9-1-1.
Are You in a Floodplain?
A floodplain is an area of land that is adjacent to a river, stream, or other water source that is susceptible to flooding during periods of high-water flow. Floodplains are typically flat or gently sloping and are located downstream from areas where rainfall or snowmelt runoff collects. During heavy rainfall or snowmelt, the water can overflow the banks of the river or stream and flood the adjacent floodplain. This can cause damage to structures and property in the area.
Mapping tools from FEMA and our St. Croix County Geospatial Team can help us get a better understanding of how flooding can impact our area.
- FEMA Flood Map Service Center
- St. Croix County's COMPAS Map
Know Your Flood Risk
It is important to know what bodies of water are in a neighborhood such as streams, creeks, rivers, or lakes, and to know if it is being protected by a levee or dam. When you know the flood risks in the area, you can know what to watch out for and what areas to avoid should you need to evacuate. Waterways can overflow and cause flooding if they are blocked with debris or ice, if there is intense rainfall or high snowmelt, or from storm surge inland. Excessive rain and snowmelt can lead to flash flooding in urban areas and can overwhelm drainage systems and cause flooding.
- Get to know potential flood risks in your area. You can use the FEMA map linked above.
- Find an evacuation route that avoids flood risk areas if possible.
- Keep window wells clear of debris, clean gutters and have downspouts extend out several feet from your home.
- Check your sump pump regularly to ensure it is working properly.
- If you have a basement that is prone to flooding, remove valuable property. Never keep something in a basement you are not prepared to lose.
Get Flood Insurance
Purchase flood insurance to offset the cost of damage, reduce your financial risk and allow you to recover more quickly after a flood. If you don’t qualify for a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program, inquire with private companies for rates. Most policies require 30 days before they take effect, so the time to act is before there is a risk of flooding.
Write an Emergency Plan
Write an emergency plan and build a preparedness kit. Make sure your family knows what to do if you need to evacuate quickly. Have copies of important documents, such as medical records, insurance policies, and other financial information, stored in a safe location and inside a waterproof case. An emergency preparedness kit should consider the five Ps:
- people and pets
- personal needs
- priceless items
Stay Alert and Know Where to Find Resources
Have multiple ways to receive alerts about dangerous weather conditions, such as a NOAA weather radio, trusted local news outlets, and mobile weather apps.
Turn Around! Don’t Drown!
- Never walk, swim, or drive through floodwater. Just 6 in of fast-moving floodwater can knock you over, and 12 in can carry your vehicle away.
- Remember that driving into floodwaters puts your life and the lives of first responders at risk. More than half of flood fatalities are vehicle related.
- Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
Get Local Updates
- Check with local sources of information for updates on road closures, local shelters and other resources that may be available in your area.
- Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or television for information. You can also follow local news outlets on social media sites, such as Facebook.
- Flooding can contaminate drinking water. Do not drink or bathe in water from a private well that has been or is flooded. Wait until floodwaters have receded before sampling or disinfecting your well.
- If you have any questions about well contamination, please contact St. Croix County Public Health at 715-246-8263 and view guidelines on water quality.
- Avoid fallen power lines, poles, and wires.
- Many injuries happen during cleanup. Wear protective equipment and follow the advice of local public health officials.
- If your home was flooded dry everything in it as quickly as you can within 24-48 hours to avoid mold growth, keep areas well ventilated, and throw out wet materials that cannot be repaired or dried.
- Check municipal, county and emergency management websites and social media pages for information on damage reporting and resources that may be available in your area.
- Contact your insurance agent to report the damage to your property. Make a detailed list of damages, take photos, and keep receipts for any repair work that is done. If you have issues with your insurance coverage, contact the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance by calling 1-800-236-8517 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Department of Health Services website has flood recovery information.
- In the immediate aftermath of an incident, it is too early to tell whether the state will seek or qualify to receive federal disaster assistance. There are several criteria that need to be evaluated before such a decision is made, and there is no guarantee the damage done to private property will meet the threshold for Individual Assistance from FEMA. Even if it is granted, disaster aid is based on factors such as whether losses were insured, if the property was a primary residence, and the income level of applicants. Assistance often comes in the form of low interest loans for affected property owners.