As winter weather advisories continue to impact Ohio, officials are encouraging residents to begin focusing on the increased potential of flood risk, particularly with warmer temperatures and increased chances for precipitation.
Rain is in the forecast in the weeks ahead, and only a small amount of rain in combination with significant snow accumulation can cause flooding in some areas.
"Flooding is a top hazard for Ohio," said Steve Ferryman, Ohio Emergency Management Agency's Mitigation and Recovery branch chief. "Residents should be mindful of changing weather conditions and take precautions against flood damage."
A midwinter or early spring thaw can produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of time. Because the ground is hard and frozen, water cannot penetrate and be reabsorbed. The water then runs off the surface and flows into lakes, streams and rivers, causing excess water to spill over their banks.
"Ohio's prolonged periods of subfreezing temperatures have caused the creation of many ice jams throughout the state," said Christopher Thoms, Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Floodplain Management program manager. "Minor flooding has already occurred in some areas, particularly in northern Ohio."
Ice flows and ice jams are annual occurrences throughout most of Ohio. Although infrastructure and other developments have been designed to accommodate winter flooding, Ohioans should still take steps to reduce the risk to lives and property.
Flood risks vary with location and the weather, but anyone who lives or owns property near a water source should:
- Monitor ice conditions and water levels
- Secure any structures and materials located in high-risk areas
- Create a plan to leave high-risk areas in case of emergency
- Avoid ice jams; do not walk or drive on or below the affected areas.
Flooding has damaging effects on homeowners. Residents should be mindful that flood insurance is not included in homeowners insurance. It is recommended that all Ohio residents visit FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419 to learn how to prepare for floods, how to purchase a flood insurance policy and the benefits of protecting your home or property investment against flooding. You can also contact your insurance agent for more information.