Floods can strike anywhere and anytime. Storm surge is usually considered the most dangerous part of a hurricane - surge from Hurricane Ivan caused incredible damage to coastal areas. Recently though, inland flooding has been the big killer. It has been responsible for more than half of hurricane-related deaths. One quarter of those deaths from 1970-1999 were people who drowned in their cars. Two feet of water can float a car. Hurricanes can dump five to10 inches of rain and, in some cases, more than 20 inches of rain can fall.
Local residents were assaulted with more than 30 inches of rain from Hurricane Danny in 1997; 24 inches drenched the area in 1998 from Hurricane Georges. In these situations, storm drains can't handle all the water and may become clogged with debris. Rivers will rise out of their bank and many areas will flood quickly. Floods may also contaminate drinking water.
Your property may have proven to be high enough in recent flooding events, but there is no way to know how bad the next event will be. If you live in the floodplain, odds are that someday your property will be damaged. The following information will give you some ideas of what you can do to help protect yourself.
Marshes, wetlands, lakes, rivers and others are all part of the floodplain. They are areas where water can collect to provide holding areas until the water has the opportunity seep into the ground and replenish our water table and can create natural and beautiful habitat for wild life and plant life. They are areas that allow water to harmlessly, somewhat under controlled conditions; escape out into the rivers or the oceans away from where humans have hopefully developed. The Perdido and Escambia River surround our county on two sides with the Gulf of Mexico on a third. Along with all of the secondary creeks and streams in the county, we have a lot of floodplain areas to consider when planning for development.
What is a Flood?
Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters - except fire. Most communities in the United States can experience some kind of flooding after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms, or winter snow thaws. Floods can be slow, or fast rising but generally develop over a period of days.
Dam failures are potentially the worst flood events. A dam failure is usually the result of neglect, poor design, or structural damage caused by a major event such as an earthquake. When a dam fails, a gigantic quantity of water is suddenly let loose downstream, destroying anything in its path.
What you can do?
Several of the county's efforts depend upon your cooperation and assistance. Here is how you can help:
- Do not dump or throw anything into the ditches, streams, creeks, or rivers. Dumping is a violation of the Escambia Ordinance 42-154. Even grass clippings and branches can accumulate and plug channels, creeks, and streams. A blocked channel cannot carry water and when it rains the water has to go somewhere. Every piece of trash contributes to flooding.
- If your property is next to a ditch or stream, please do your part and keep the banks clear of brush and debris. The county has a maintenance program, which can help remove major blockages such as downed trees.
- If you see dumping or debris in the ditches, contact the County Public Works Department at 850-937-2130, in the city call 850-435-1755.
- Always check with the Building Department before you build on, alter, regrade, or fill on your property. A permit may be needed to ensure that projects do not cause problems on other properties.
- If you see building or filling without a county permit sign posted, contact the Building Department at 850-595-3550.
- Wet floodproofing makes uninhabited parts of your house resistant to flood damage when water is allowed to enter the building.
- Dry floodproofing is sealing your house to prevent waters from entering.
- Levee and flood wall means constructing barriers to prevent floodwaters from entering your house.
- Elevation-raising your house so that the lowest floor is above the flood level. This is the most common way to avoid flood damage.
- Relocation means moving your house to higher ground where the exposure to flooding is eliminated.
- Sewage back-up can be stopped with a simple device for 1-2 foot flooding that can be purchased at the hardware store. Deeper flooding may require a more sophisticated approach and you should contact your local plumber.
- Remember, any alteration to your building or land may require a permit. Please call the Building Permitting Office for further information.
If you have a home mortgage and you live in a special flood hazard area, you probably have flood insurance. Escambia County has almost 9,000 policyholders. If you do not, contact your insurance agent for more information.
Flood insurance is provided through a special federal program called the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The insurance is federally backed and available to everyone, even if you do not live in a special flood hazard area. But keep in mind, homeowners' insurance will not cover flood damage. And then the basic flood policy may not cover the contents of your home, but only the structural damages, so you may want to talk with your insurance agent to make sure you have the coverage you think you have.
Just remember, you don't have to live near a body of water to be susceptible to flooding. Your home could just be sitting in a large bowl where rainwater could collect and flood your home. Check to see if your home is in or near a flood hazard area at FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). The following charts list the amount of maximum coverage available to property owners:
- Building Coverage
- Single Family Dwelling $250,000
- Other Residential $250,000
- Non-Residential $500,000
- Small Business $500,000
- Contents Coverage
- Residential $100,000
- Non-Residential $500,000
- Small Business $500,000
Flood warning system
Escambia County has a flood recognition and warning system to provide residents with up to the minute information on impending storms or flood threats. You can also monitor river stage heights for Escambia River and Perdido River. The following stations service our area:
- WUWF 88.1 FM
- WPCS 89.5 FM
- WTGF 90.5 FM
- WHIL 91.3 FM
- WEGS 91.7 FM
- WWRK 92.1 FM
- WBLX 92.9 FM
- WMEZ 94.1 FM
- WKSJ 94.9 FM
- WGCX 95.7 FM
- WRKH 96.1 FM
- WABB 97.5 FM
- WTKE 98.1 FM
- WYCT 98.7 FM
- WMXC 99.9 FM
- WJLQ 100.7 FM
- WTKX 101.5 FM
- WXBM 102.7 FM
- WYOK 104.1 FM
- WCSN 105.7 FM
- WRRX 106.1 FM
- WAVH 106.5 FM
- WYCL 107.3 FM
- WYCT 98.7 FM
- WASG 550 AM
- WVTJ 610 AM
- WPNN 790 AM
- WRNE 980 AM
- WNVY 1090 AM
- WZNO 1230 AM
- WEBY 1330 AM
- WCOA 1370 AM
- WBSR 1450 AM
- WABB 1480 AM
- WECM 1490 AM
- WNRP 1620 AM
- WEAR TV-3
- WALA TV-10
- WKRG TV-5
- WPMI TV-15
- Do not walk through flowing water: Drowning is the number one cause of flood death. Six sites/bereadyescambia.com/themes/bereadyescambia/images/inches of moving water can knock you off of your feet. If you walk in standing water, use a pole or stick to ensure that the ground is still there.
- Do not drive through flooded areas: More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don't drive around barricades-there may not be a road or a bridge where one used to be.
- Stay away from power lines and electrical wires: The number two flood killer after drowning is electrocution. Electrical currents can travel through water. Report any downed power lines.
- Have your electricity turned off by the power company: If an appliance or motor has gotten wet, make sure they have been properly cleaned and dried before you use them again.
Substantial damage/improvement requirements
If you plan on remodeling, adding on or improving your home, or if your home has sustained damage to the point that repairs or improvement will cost 50% or more of the building pre-damage/pre-improvement market value, you will be required to bring your home or business up to current building and floodplain code standards. Flood insurance policy holders in special flood hazard areas might be able get up $40,000 under the sites/bereadyescambia.com/themes/bereadyescambia/images/increased cost of compliance coverage in their flood insurance policy to assist in bring their home into compliance with codes and standards. Talk with your insurance agent about how it works.
For assistance with flood zone determination, in the county call 850-595-1144, in the city call 850-436-5600 on Pensacola Beach call 850-932-2257. If you need a copy of an elevation certificate, in the county call 850-595-1144, in the city call 850-436-5600, and SRIA call 850-932-2257. To find out if you live in a storm surge area, call Emergency Management at 850-471-6400 or see our storm surge maps. You can also find out your relative flood risk.