Virginia Flood Awareness Week is March 10 - 16

Did you know that flooding is one of the most common and costly weather disasters in the United States? However, only three percent of Virginians have flood insurance. March 10-16 is Virginia Flood Awareness Week, encouraging residents to learn about their flood risk and protect the life they’ve built with flood insurance. Now is the perfect time to plan and protect your home from potential flooding from spring rains and the upcoming hurricane season.  

One of the most important steps residents can take to prepare today is to check whether they need flood insurance. Whether through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private carrier, flood insurance allows individuals, businesses and communities to quickly and efficiently recover after a flood. Most homeowners' and renters' insurance policies do not cover damage caused by floods.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA), just one inch of water in a home can cause up to $25,000 in damages. Flood insurance can mean the difference between recovering and being financially devastated. Stafford County participates in the NFIP, which means all residents are eligible for flood insurance, even if they do not live in a high-risk flood zone.

With the county's support, FEMA has updated the community’s potential flood zone maps to reflect the best available data. The County has received a final determination letter from FEMA stating that updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps became effective as of June 2023. The updated flood maps can be viewed using the County’s interactive mapping site or FEMA’s Flood Map Changes Viewer. Residents can enter their address to see their property’s flood risk.  

Floods don’t just hit coastal Virginia. In 2021, the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused devastating floods and mudslides in Buchanan County. In 2018, Hurricanes Florence and Michael tore through central and western areas of the state. During Hurricane Michael, the Dan River region suffered roughly $12.9 million in damages. Floods can happen during storms or due to excessive runoff outside the storm area.

In addition to knowing your home's level of flood risk and purchasing flood insurance, there are many ways to protect your home from damage caused by flooding. Here are a few easy, inexpensive recommendations: 

  • Maintain proper water runoff and drainage. Routinely clean and maintain gutters and downspouts so that rainwater from your roof flows quickly away from your home. Ensure ditches, storm drain inlets and stream channels are debris-free to allow the free flow of water.  
  • Locate your outdoor sewer cleanout cap and ensure that it is adequately sealed. A properly functioning sewer cleanout cap ensures that stormwater from a flood event does not enter your sewer system, which is not built to accommodate a large influx of water. 
  • Anchor and elevate utilities and service equipment. Raise and anchor air conditioning condensers, heat pumps, water meters, and other service equipment at least one foot above potential flood elevation. This inexpensive action can help prevent significant damage and disruption during a flood event. 
  • Locate your home's emergency water shut-off valve and ensure all household members know where it is located. The valve should also be completely shut off. It may be rusted open or only partially closed. If so, replace it.
  • Protect your valuable possessions. Move important documents and other valuable or sentimental items to a safe location, well above potential flood elevation and/or inside watertight containers. 

Remember, anywhere it can rain, it can flood. Take steps now to learn more about your flood risk. Sign up to receive severe weather notifications through Stafford Alert so you are aware when the flood risk is elevated or imminent. Ensure you have an emergency kit for your household and vehicles with at least 3 days of supplies, including food, water, first aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, medication, etc. For more information on flood preparedness, please visit www.ready.gov/flood