Checklist to prepare your home for potential flooding

In January 2017, California is broke records for snow pack accumulation for the past 50+ years.  The winter if 2018 is milder, with the notable exception of an intense period of rain in an otherwise parched region following the #ThomasFire.

Being prepared for potential flooding is important especially in January and February.

Preparing Your Home for Potential Flooding

  • Clear your roof gutters so it drains as designed, direct water from downspouts away from your house and check the storm drains.
  • Move as much as you can to higher grounds.  Placing plastic food containers under furniture legs is very helpful.
  • Build a flood barrier.  If you need sandbags, learn how to use them properly by visiting this link.
  • If flooding seems likely turn off your gas and electricity  at the main switch or valve. (Or risk fire or electrocution!) Do not touch electrical equipment if there is wet or standing in water.  Unplug all electric items as a precaution. (Items can hold a charge.)
  • Have emergency kit ready including SHOVEL, gloves, boots flashlight, batteries, and fresh water.
  • Photograph your property for insurance purposes (before and after).
  • Check that your insurance is up to date.  Additional insurance for flooding takes about 30 days.  Policy riders for mudslide and sewer back-up takes much less time.
  • Keep yourself updated on weather conditions and evacuate, if advised. Know where to go before road access is cut off by flood water. This is super critical if you live near damns or levees.
  • Help your neighbors (especially elderly or disabled)

Basic Home Maintenance Tips

  1. Don’t flush anything other than sewage and toilet paper (No grease or wipes.)
  2. Inspect sewer laterals every 5-10 years.  (Blockages can cause back up.)
  3. Keep your roof downspouts and gutters clear.
  4. Install permeable landscape.
  5. Use rain barrels to collect water for use later.
  6. Keep neighborhood storm drain clear of debris.

If Your Home or Neighborhood Floods

  • Return when safe from threat.
  • Don’t walk or drive in flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of weather related deaths during flash floods. Currents can be deceptive.  Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
  • Stay away from standing water, power lines and electrical wires. The second major cause of flood related death is electrocution. Electric current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to PG&E at 1(800) 743-5000.  Some appliances, such as television sets, maintain electrical charges even after they have been unplugged. Do not use appliances or motors that have been exposed to water unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.
  • Look before you walk in standing water, use a pole/stick to locate the ground. 
  • Look out for animals, esp. snakes.  Small animals flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn things over and to scare away small animals.
  • Ground may be covered with debris, including broken bottles and nails.  Mud can  be very slippery.
  • Be alert for gas leaks.  Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Do not flip on a light switch as that can create a spark and ignite the gas. Also do not smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.
  • Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.

Storm Road Conditions

Driving in severe storms is dangerous, so check conditions on this link before leaving. 

  • Do Not Drive in Flooded Areas!  A foot or two of fast moving water can carry your car. Do not even drive if you can avoid it and definitely don’t go sight-seeing. The risk of drowning in your car in certain areas is possible and can certainly impede movement of emergency vehicles, especially on mountain roads.
  • Do not drive around road barriers; the flood waters may have washed out the road or bridge.
  • If flood waters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
  • Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.
  • Getting out of your car to help a disabled vehicle In rainy, dark conditions is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.   Helping motorists in storm conditions can KILL you!!


Last winter my friend stopped to help a disabled car in the westbound lane of the Bay Bridge. The driver was walking around his car completely exposed to on-coming traffic.   My friend just made a call to CHP when his car got rear ended by someone going full speed. Somehow the car that hit him got flipped 180 degrees. Everyone was ok, but two of the three cars were totaled.

I can’t even imagine if his car was not a buffer to the occupants walking around the outside of their disabled car.


In another situation, a friend’s boyfriend was doing same thing for another disabled vehicle, except he died that day.

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