by Public Affairs | Office Of Emergency Management   March 18, 2017

As much as the spring season, which begins March 20th at 6:29 a.m., is anticipated for the arrival of warmer weather and as a prelude to summer, it is also a cause for concern due to the hazardous conditions it brings.

The months of March, April, and May see roller-coaster climate and atmospheric volatility that delivers the United States some of its wildest weather, including thunder and lightning stormstornadoes, and flooding. Severe storms can produce high winds than bring down trees and power lines resulting in power outages and utility interuptions.

A 2016 report by Pew Charitable Trusts looked at the financial impact of hazardous weather in Pennsylvania. There were 20 federal disasters and emergencies declared for floods, hurricanes, and severe storms between the years 2000 to 2015 in the Keystone State. Federal assistance exceeded $750 million for these storms.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), flooding was the greatest cause of property loss attributed to natural hazards in Pennsylvania at a cost of $91.6 million per year from 1996 to 2014.

Flooding is the greatest natural hazard faced by residents of Pennsylvania. The state is one of the most flood-prone in the U.S., with the southeastern region, including Philadelphia, being the most susceptible. Flooding can occur quicker in urban areas as more runoff is created in developed urbanized areas with less green space available. Urbanization increases runoff by 2 to 6 times over what would occur in natural terrain.

Severe storms are not only a cause of monetary concern: Storms can kill. Nationally, flooding causes more damage than any weather related event, accounting for $8 billion in damages and 89 fatalities yearly according to the National Weather Service 30 Year Flood Averages.

What You Can Do

Be Informed

  • Severe weather can develop quickly.
    • Sign up to get real time weather updates from direct from the National Weather Service though the City’s mass notification system, ReadyPhiladelphia. Important information is sent to your phone or inbox and text or email, free of charge.
  • The Philadelphia Water Department has information to help you be informed on flooding, how it affects different neighborhoods, and what you can do to mitigate damage in your home or business.
  • You can check flood stages from your laptop or phone.
    • The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, also known as their flood-stage monitoring site, takes data from flood gauges placed at certain waterways throughout our area and give you real time water levels along with flood stages and timing.
  • Follow City social media accounts for information; @PhiladelphiaGov, @PhilaOEM, @Philly311, @PhilaStreets, @PhillyPolice, and @PhillyFireDept.

Be Weather Aware

  • Prior to a storm approaching, learn the safest route from your home to high ground in case you have to evacuate.
    • Think of where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate. This should be part of your Family Emergency Plan. Account for all members of your family, including those more vulnerable or with access and functional needs.
    • Be sure to account for your pets, never leave them behind. Identify family or friends who can take them in the event of an evacuation. Animals are welcome at all City of Philadelphia evacuation shelters, reception centers, and on SEPTA evacuation transport vehicles.
  • Understand the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning.
    • Each designation represents a different level of action to be taken. Flood or flash flood watch means flooding may occur. Stay alert and watch rivers and streams.  Flood or flash flood warning is more serious and means there is actual flooding.
  • You will need supplies that are found in a shelter-in-place kit to not only get through the storm, but for the aftermath as well.
    • Utilities such as electricity and water may be out for a prolonged period, so have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of one week.
    • You’ll need extra cash, a battery-powered radio and flashlights. Given our reliance on cell phones, you’ll need a portable, crank or solar powered USB charger. Put together a Go-Bag in case you need to evacuate.
  • The National Weather Service says more deaths occur yearly due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard.
    • Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. This is followed closely by flood-related deaths due to walking into or near flood waters.
    • Six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. 12 inches of rushing water can carry away a small car.  Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.
    • If you encounter flood waters on a roadway, Turn Around, Don’t Drown. Please do not drive around barricades.

Be Prepared for Power Outages

  • The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management recommends having a flashlight, a battery operated AM/FM radio, and spare batteries found in a Shelter-in-Place kit for easy access. Keeping your cell phone fully charged is a smart preparedness idea as well. Other beneficial knowledge includes:
    • Use flashlights for emergency lighting. Candles become a fire hazard.
    • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed tight as most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely for several hours. An unopened fridge can keep food at the proper temperature for about 4 hours.
    • If it’s hot out, find a location to stay cool. The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management may open a Cooling Center if warranted. Wear light colored, lightweight clothing and keep hydrated with water, even if you’re not feeling that thirsty.
    • If it’s cold out, wear layers of clothing. Do not burn charcoal indoors nor use your over as a source of heating. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location, like a relative or friends house. OEM may open up a Warming Center if there is a need.
    • Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power “surge” that can damage computers and other devices. Consider adding surge protectors.
    • If you are considering purchasing a generator for your home, consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing.
    • Only use generators away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system.
  • Philadelphia’s power utility company PECO has ways to help before, during, and after a storm, including; preventing outagesstorm readinessstorm restoration processreporting outages online, and tracking current outages.
  • PECO also wants you to know you can report an outage on mobile via text message to 697326 (MYPECO).
    • To report a gas emergency or a downed or sparking power line, please call 1-800-841-4141.
    • If there is a street light outage, call Philadelphia’s non-emergency number 3-1-1. Street lights in the city of Philadelphia are owned and maintained by the city.
  • Have a tree emergency?
    • Philadelphia Parks and Recreation says if a tree falls during a storm and it’s blocking a road, or it has fallen on a house, car or other property, call 911.
    • For non-emergency tree requests, please submit a request through Philly 311.
    • In the event that a tree has fallen on electrical wires, please call PECO’s emergency line: 1-800-841-4141. Do not approach.

Be Insured Properly

  • Ask your insurance company for a check-up.  The cost of flood insurance can be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of flood damage.
    • Make sure you have enough homeowners or renter’s insurance for your residence.  Standard homeowners insurance does not cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy for it, and it’s available through your company, agent or the National Flood Insurance Program.
    • Flood insurance requires a 30-day wait period, so act before the storm. Not all insurance policies are the same.
    • Coverage amounts, deductibles, and payment caps can vary significantly. Talk with your insurance provider to find what fits you best.
  • Are you a business owner? Whether you are Main Street mom-and-pop or Broad Street hi-rise, having a business continuity plan is imperative.
    • Federal statistics say up to 40% of businesses never recover after a major disaster. Be Ready. Stay Open.


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