Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Floods may:
- Result from rain, coastal storms, storm surges, and overflows of dams and other water systems
- Develop slowly or quickly - Flash floods can come with no warning
- Cause utility outages, disrupt transportation, and damage buildings
Floods can occur at any time of the year and almost anywhere in North Carolina, so it's important to prepare your family and property ahead of time. Learn more at ReadyNC.org and Ready.gov.
Did you know? More than 20% of flood claims come from properties outside of the high-risk flood zone, and homeowners' and renters' insurance typically do not cover flood damage. Learn about your flood risk at FloodSmart.gov.
National Weather Service's Wilmington Weather Field Office maintains a list of criteria for different statements, advisories, watches, and warnings. Visit https://www.weather.gov/ilm/criteria and click the hazard at the top of the page for more information.
- Flood watch – rainfall is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow their banks. Flooding is possible in the next 12 to 36 hours. Prepare your property, review your plans, and follow instructions from NWS and local officials.
- Flood warning – flooding is occurring or very likely to happen. If you are in an area that is affected, be prepared to evacuate and/or move to a higher location. If told to leave, do so immediately.
- Flash flood watch – flash flooding in specified areas is possible. Be alert! You may need to take quick action.
- Flash flood warning – flash flooding is occurring or is likely to happen along certain streams and select areas. Get to a safe place immediately!
- Be Informed and learn about the flood risk in your area.
- Check the NC flood maps, New Hanover County flood zones map, and visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center for more information.
- If it rains where you are, it could flood. Have a plan on what to do and where to go.
- Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy. Homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flooding and they do not cover personal property if you are a renter. It typically takes up to 30 days for a policy to go into effect.
- Make a Plan
- Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans, and what you and your family should do during a flood.
- Build an Emergency Supply Kit for your family and pets.
- Stay Informed by downloading a weather app on the App Store or Google Play, signing up for emergency alerts, or getting a NOAA Weather Radio .
- If you have an access or functional need and may need additional help planning on what to do in a crisis, check out the NHC Access and Functional Needs Registry .
- Buy or renew a flood insurance policy
- Keep gutters and drains free of debris
- Consider elevating your heating and cooling system, water heater, and electric panel if the location might flood
- Install "check valves" in sewer lines to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home
- Install sump pumps with battery backups
- Stockpile emergency building materials like large tarps, plywood, lumber nails, a hammer and saw, a pry bar, and shovels
- If your property has repetitive flooding damage, learn more about your options including property elevations from NCORR and FEMA.
If a flood warning is issued for your area, find safe shelter right away.
- Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around, Don't Drown!
- Just six inches of moving water can knock you down, and two feet of moving water can sweep your vehicle away. If water is covering the road, turn around and find an alternative route.
- Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
- If floodwaters rise around your car, call 911, leave the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.
- Stay off of bridges over fast-moving water, which can wash bridges away without warning.
- Determine how best to protect yourself.
- If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
- Move to higher ground. If trapped in a building by flooding, go to the highest level of the building and call 911. Do not climb into a closed attic. You may become trapped by rising flood water. Go on the roof only if necessary. Once there, signal for help.
- Stay where you are (shelter in place).
- If the power goes out, use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery only outdoors and away from windows.
- DO NOT swim or play in floodwaters. Partners at the CDC advise there could be many hazards lurking in the water including:
- Downed power lines
- Human and livestock waste
- Hazardous materials from
- Physical objects like trees, vehicles, and other debris
- Wild or stray animals like rodents and snakes
- Stay informed.
- Sign up for emergency alerts and emergency news updates from the county. Check online and your weather radio for updates for current emergency information and instructions.
- Listen to local authorities for information and special instructions. Check online and your weather radio for updates. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
- Avoid driving, except in emergencies.
- Be careful during clean-up. Wear heavy gloves and boots, and work with someone else. Check for snakes and other animals that may be in your house after flooding.
- Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock.
- Avoid wading in flood water, which can contain dangerous debris and bacteria. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
- Practice good hygiene after contact with flood water, and do not allow children to play in flood water. Learn more about flood water safety.
- Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
- Document any property damage with photographs. Contact your insurance company for assistance.
North Carolina Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network (NC FIMAN)
NWS Wilmington Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service
Flood Information Sheet (PDF)
Protective Actions Research for Flood
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
Six Things to Know Before a Disaster (Video)
When the Cloud Forms (Video)
Your Homeowners Insurance Does Not Cover Flood (Link to Ready.gov for this PDF in English and in Spanish)
Flood Safety Information from the American Red Cross
Resources for Educators
Flood Safety Social Media Toolkit
National Weather Service Weather Ready Nation Spring Safety Outreach Materials