By M.J. Subiria Arauz
Spring has sprung, and so has the flooding season, according to officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Jody Cottrill, external affairs specialist for FEMA, said flooding is the No. 1 natural disaster in the U.S.
"Flooding in Clayton County, Ga., typically occurs anywhere from early spring through to early fall," added Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke, public information officer for Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services. "Ten percent of Clayton County can be classified as 'flood plain,' [and] most of these areas are located near the Flint River that runs through the county."
The properties most prone to present potential dangers to citizens include homes in low-lying areas, and roadways located near rivers, lakes and ponds, said Feilke. Some places not labeled as flooding areas, suffer from this natural disaster, also, she said.
"Each occurring storm in, and out of, Clayton County has the potential of creating dangerous flooding," she said, adding that she has witnessed high flood levels in the county, but that water levels -- to her knowledge -- have never reached "above a person's head."
She explained that Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services personnel have, in the past, had to rescue residents, using a boat.
Feilke said the best way Clayton County residents can prepare for a flood is to watch the news and have a weather radio on hand. Electrical items should be placed in high areas, she said.
FEMA Spokeswoman Jody Cottrill said repair costs due to flooding can be expensive, especially if the water level in a flooded home rises above the electrical sockets. Homeowners and renters should purchase flood insurance, she said.
The insurance, she said, does not protect the home, itself, but it does protect the homeowner's investment in the home.
"A misconception is that, if you don't live in a flood-hazard area, you can't buy flood insurance," she said. "Mother Nature doesn't pay attention to the lines on the map," she added. "They don't mean anything."
FEMA officials added that 20 percent of all flood insurance claims derive from homes and buildings in moderate-to-low-risk areas. It is also important for apartment dwellers to purchase flood insurance, even if their unit is above the first floor of a building, said Cottrill. Floods are able to damage a building's foundation to where the structure becomes uninhabitable, she said.
FEMA officials said that, generally, a standard homeowner's policy does not cover flood damages. FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program provides coverage for homeowners, renters and business owners, through numerous insurance agents located in 21,000 communities across the nation, officials said.
Flood coverage is available for high-to low-risk flood areas. The average cost of a policy is about $570 a year, officials said. But residents living outside flood-hazard areas can purchase a policy, often for as little as $129 per year.
For more information about the FEMA flood insurance program, visit, www.FloodSmart.gov. "Most policies take 30 days to go into effect, so it's important to act now," added Craig Fugate, administrator for FEMA, in a written statement.
Fugate said that other ways individuals can protect themselves from flooding, include educating themselves on the risks of flooding, having an emergency preparedness kit on hand, and storing important documents in a safe place.
Floods not only damage property, but can also endanger lives, according to officials of the National Weather Service. Deaths due to flooding, occur more often each year, than from any other weather-related, lethal hazard, because people underestimate the power of water, according to weather officials.
"Floods occur somewhere in the United States or its territories nearly every day of the year, killing nearly 100 people, on average, annually, and causing damage in the billions of dollars," said Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service.
For more information, or life-saving tips, visit, www.ready.gov/floodawareness, and www.weather.gov.