Spring Flooding: What Business Owners Need to Know

Did you know that 98% of U.S. counties are impacted by a flooding event?1 Of all of the different types of natural disasters that take place in the U.S., flooding is one of the most prevalent and costly. In fact, flooding inflicted upwards of $260 billion in damage in the U.S. from 1980 to 2013.2 And in recent years, the amounts and cost of flooding damage continues to increase.

With the potential for spring flooding just around the corner, now is the perfect time to prepare accordingly.

Heeding the Wakeup Calls 
When it comes to flooding, 2016 was an eye-opening example of just how bad things could get. Why? Between 1980 and 2016, there had never been more than two billion-dollar plus inland flood events in a single year. In 2016, the U.S. saw four separate billion-dollar inland flooding events across the South East and South West.3 The largest flooding event in 2016 took place in August in Louisiana, destroying more than 20,000 businesses and causing more than $10 billion in total damages.4

The flooding that abruptly ended an extended severe drought in northern and central California in February of 2017 is another good reminder for just how quickly heavy rain can impact an area. This flooding event caused more than $1.5 billion in damage, including damage to a dam spillway that led the evacuation of nearly 190,000 people downstream at one point.5

The Midwest also saw a $1.7 billion event in 2017 when 15 inches of rain fell in a short period across areas in Missouri, Arkansas and Southern Illinois. The deluge of rain led to river flooding, breached levees and extensive damage to businesses and homes.6

And in April of 2018, the islands of Kauai, Hawaii and Oahu, Hawaii had record-breaking rainfall from a series of severe thunderstorms. In fact, on Kauai alone, nearly 50 inches of rain was recorded within a 24-hour timeframe causing flash flooding and landslides.7

Have we convinced you yet that flooding is a serious issue?

The Main Causes of Inland Flooding
No matter where your business is located, flooding of some sort is almost always a possibility. Especially when you consider that insurance companies define flooding as any type of surface water, including rainwater. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cautions that as we move into spring business owners and homeowners should be aware of the potential causes of spring flooding risks in their area. According to FEMA, those could include one or all of the following:8

  • Runoff from the spring thaw
  • Heavy spring rains
  • Flash flooding from intense rains or severe thunderstorms
  • Overtopping or failure of levees or dams after heavy rain

If heavy rain doesn’t sound like a threat, consider that 40 states have noted an increase in heavy downpours since 1950. The Northeast and Midwest alone have seen 31 and 16 percent increases respectively. In other words, storms that dump several inches or more of rain per day in short periods are getting more frequent. The problem is that all of that water has to flow somewhere, and most city and building drainage systems aren’t designed to handle the dramatic increase in volume. So potential water incursion in your building from a big rainstorm is a very real possibility. 

Depending on the extent of flooding in your building, the types of damage can range from extensive and obvious to hidden moisture incursion in walls. In either case, it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with and follow best practices in addressing it to contain costs and a speed recovery. 

Preparing Your Business
Flood preparation is an essential component of disaster planning for every business. If you have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place, make sure it includes plans and procedures for any type of flooding event your business could experience. If you don’t have a DRP, you can use our handy Jump Start Disaster Recovery Plan template to get started.
1 https://www.fema.gov/data-visualization-floods-data-visualization
2 Flooding Disasters Cost Billions in 2016, The Pew Charitable Trusts, February 2017.
3 2016: A historic year for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the U.S., Climate.gov, January 2017.
4 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Table of Events, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, 2018.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid. 
7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Hawaii_floods
8 Spring flooding: risks and protection, FEMA.