Spring weather brings booming business and weather threats - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Spring weather brings booming business and weather threats

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Despite being a bright, sunny day in the Valley, Monday kicked off Georgia's Flood Safety Preparedness Week. This comes as parts of the Southeast, mainly Louisiana, deal with flooding threats from torrential rainfall.

As flowers are blooming locally, river-front businesses in Columbus are booming. Spring weather is drawing out crowds to local attractions like zip-lining and white water rafting.

"This is a great time of year because it's getting warmer and everybody wants to come out and play so we're seeing a lot more people especially on weekends," said Dan Gilbert, White Water Express President.

For the popular business, the start of seasonal crowds couldn't come fast enough after winter flooding hit the local area hard.

"It really got up there and we had to suspend operations for most of December and January," said Gilbert.

At the end of 2015, the valley got slammed with heavy rainfall that made the Chattahoochee River swell over, hurting businesses and flooding popular hang-out spots.

Residents could have seen significant water damage from other water ways near more residential areas if flooding worsened. Georgia's Insurance Commissioner is now reminding people to buy flood insurance as a part of Flood Safety Preparedness Week happening now.

"It is estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of flood claims are filed by people who live outside of mapped, high-risk flood areas," said Glenn Allen with the commissioner's office. 

Officials also add that it's important to plan ahead since a flood insurance policy will not go into effect until 30 days after it's purchased. So while it may be hard to think of flooding during these warm sunny days, officials say now is the time.

"What you're hearing from many of those flood victims is, 'it's never been this bad, or we've never experienced this before,'" said Allen.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security's office adds these tips:

Before Flooding

  • Know your area’s flood risk – if unsure, contact your local emergency management agency or planning and zoning department, or visit www.floodsmart.gov.
  • Most home insurance policies DO NOT cover flood damage from rising water. Review your  policy with your insurance provider and if you rent, consider renter’s insurance. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program provides reasonable flood insurance in exchange for the careful management of flood-prone areas by local communities.
  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a flood.
    • A flood watch means widespread flooding is possible in your area. Be prepared to evacuate. A watch is issued for flooding that is expected to occur six to 12 hours after the heavy rains have ended.
    • A flood warning means a flood is expected in your area within six to 12 hours. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Build a disaster supplies kit and prepare a portable ready kit. 
  • Plan how to leave and where to go if advised to evacuate.
  • Develop a communications plan and select a meeting place outside of your neighborhood in case your family is separated and unable to return home due to flooded roads.
  • Identify an out-of-town contact. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service.
  • Plan ahead for your pets. Shelters cannot accept pets due to health reasons, so it’s important to find a pet-friendly hotel or make arrangements with family or friends in advance. 
  • Prepare your home by:
    • Protecting important documents. Keep insurance policies and copies of other important documents in a waterproof container in your Ready kit. Make electronic copies by taking photos of them with your phone or scanning them.
    • Move furniture and valuables to higher floors .
    • Raise your furnace, water heater and electric panel if they are in lower areas of your home that could flood.

During Flooding

  • If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
  • Monitor local media for flood information.
  • Follow local officials’ instructions.. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Do not drive around barricades. They are there for your safety.
  • Never drive through standing water. It only takes one foot to float a full-sized automobile and two feet of fast-moving water can sweep it away.
    • More than half of flood victims are in vehicles swept away by moving water.
  • Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks and storm drains.
  • Stay out of floodwaters if possible. The water may be contaminated or electrically charged. However, if your car stalls in rapidly rising water, get out immediately and seek higher ground.
  • Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of electric shock or electrocution.

After Flooding

  • Do not return to your home until local authorities say it is safe. Even after floodwaters recede, roads and bridges may be weakened and could collapse. Buildings may be unstable, and drinking water may be contaminated. Use common sense and exercise caution.

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