Charlotte-Mecklenburg has had 80 significant floods in the past 20 years.
Those floods have caused more than $22 million in damage -- more than the local damage caused by any other type of natural disaster. Since 1993, seven people have died in Charlotte flooding. The number of local flood deaths is higher than the number of local people killed by tornadoes and lightning combined.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services, Charlotte Fire Department, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Emergency Management officials kicked off the “Build an ARK” campaign at a news conference on March 12 at Little Sugar Creek Greenway near the intersection of Brandywine and Westfield roads, the location of several major floods in the 1990s and years prior. Flood-prone homes near the site were eventually purchased and razed by Mecklenburg County to make way for the greenway, which restored the floodplain to its natural state and took residents out of harm’s way.
Awareness about flooding is essential to save your life and property
, officials said. That includes being aware of how often it floods and how disastrous flooding can be. One reason flooding is so dangerous is that it is hard to predict. Eighty-three percent of local floods are considered “flash floods.” That means the flooding happens with very little warning, often within an hour or two of the first heavy rain. It’s important to know the difference between a flood watch and flood warning
During the media event, Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan talked about the R in ARK: responsibility.
“You are responsible for your actions—and your actions might save your life during a flood,” Hannan said.
Dave Canaan, head of the County staff of Storm Water Services, reminds people that Mother Nature doesn’t read floodplain maps
. Those maps show where flooding is expected along major creeks if we receive a specific amount of rain. But it might rain more than that amount. Flooding can and does happen outside of mapped floodplains. And it doesn’t just flood along creeks. Streets are part of our drainage system and can easily flood during very heavy rain.
“K stands for knowledge,” Canaan said. “That includes knowing your flood risk and knowing about flood insurance.”
Storm water officials and emergency responders stressed that it’s also important to know WHY it floods
. While development can make flooding worse, development is not the main reason that Charlotte-Mecklenburg has so many floods. It may sound obvious, but Charlotte’s flooding is caused by extremely heavy rain. Locally, that’s due to nor’easters, intense thunderstorms and drenching tropical storms and hurricanes. While population growth and development surged in the 1990s, there were no local floods in 2001 and only one flood in 2007. However, there were 10 significant floods in both 2003 and 2010. The reason it floods so often one year and not the next is not development, it’s our fluctuating rainfall patterns.
Some other serious pointers to remember about flooding:
Never drive through floodwater
. From behind the wheel, you can’t see how deep it is. Turn around, don’t drown! Never drive around barricades. Never walk or play in floodwater—and keep kids away from flooded streets and creeks. Five local flood deaths were people walking or playing and got swept away in floodwater. When you don’t act responsibly during a flood, you’re not only risking your own life. You are risking the lives of emergency rescue crews.
Clearing debris off storm drains can help reduce street flooding. To be safe, “maintain your drain before it rains
Have an emergency supply kit
and be ready to evacuate if you’re asked. If floodwater threatens lives or property, call 911. If it’s a minor drainage problem, call 311.
Even if you don’t live in a floodplain, you probably drive over one as you go to work or take the kids to school. If the weather report says a specific creek is flooding, it helps to know if that creek is near you or on your route.
Flood damage is not covered by regular insurance
. You need a separate flood insurance policy. Anyone is eligible to buy flood insurance—inside or outside of the mapped floodplain. The amount you pay for flood insurance depends on your level of risk.
Awareness, Responsibility and Knowledge are essential. So “Build an ARK.” But there’s one more step. After you build that A – R – K
, take action to protect your family and your property. Have more questions? Visit Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services