Our country is currently experiencing an epidemic that has many worried about their livelihoods.

Businesses are closing and others have employees working from home. Schools are closed. People are encouraged to limit social gatherings to 10 people or less and quarantine if possible. Home is the safest place for all of us to be right now. And yet, there is another serious threat facing our country soon — flooding.

Over the past 10 years the most major flooding events in the United States have happened during the spring. Last year was the second wettest on record and cost the Midwest $6.2 billion in flooding damages. The devastation found tens of thousands of residents throughout these states with damaged homes, and many were displaced completely.


This spring is expected to be similar to past years in terms of flooding events. As of now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has predicted above normal spring flooding risks for most major rivers and lakes throughout the Midwest.

Typically residents in flood-prone or flood-damaged homes can turn to shelters for immediate relief while surrounding communities help to provide food and personal care supplies needed. However, this year we are facing extenuating circumstances which have led to empty grocery stores, food banks without volunteers, and emergency personnel stretched thin due to COVID-19 concerns. The response and assistance available to flooding victims this year might be extremely slow compared to years past.

In Canada, major cities recently announced that emergency shelters will not be available for spring flooding due to worries of COVID-19 contamination and urged local governments to strategize other solutions. If the United States follows the same regulations, many flood industry experts worry that people are not prepared.

“Everyone is focused on the coronavirus, as they should be, but we also want homeowners to remember that flooding risks increase this time of year as well,” said Amanda Bryant, director of operations for My Flood Risk, “with resources very scarce at the moment, it could be a very dangerous situation when the first major flood occurs this spring.”

Property owners are encouraged to review their flood safety kits and, while stocking up for quarantine, to also replenish these. Each kit should have a three-day supply of water and food for each person in the home, blankets, a battery operated radio, hygiene and medical supplies, as well as a flashlight and batteries. Important documents should be kept in a water-proof container.

As for FEMA assistance, which many believe is readily available in the event of a loss, it’s a lengthy process and people are often denied. It also typically comes in the form of a loan that must be repaid with interest. With the COVID-19 crisis ongoing, FEMA assistance could take even longer.

With the sparsity of important resources and volunteers, it is urgent that homeowners prepare themselves for the threat of flooding. We have to recognize that emergency shelters could very possibly not be available in the event of displacement and that FEMA is going to be preoccupied with the continuing coronavirus pandemic. Planning ahead and restocking flood kits, reviewing safety plans, and obtaining flood insurance protection are actions that can help protect homeowners and their families this spring.

Scherff is the project manager for My Flood Risk, a free, interactive, web-based platform to help property owners determine their true flood risk. Contact Scherff at jscherff@myfloodrisk.org.