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Fox News Weather Center

How to Protect Your Family From Rapidly Rising Floodwaters

Having an emergency exit plan isn't just a good idea for fires, but it's also vital for flooding and other weather emergencies.

Flash flooding has been a huge problem this spring and summer in the United States as over a foot of rain fell in parts of Oklahoma and Texas.

There are more flood-related deaths each year in the U.S. than for any other weather condition, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

The national 30-year average for flood deaths is 127. The same 30-year period shows a yearly average of 73 deaths for lightning, 68 for tornadoes and 16 for hurricanes, according to NWS data.

Depending on the location of your home and the severity of flood, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for flood waters to inundate the ground floor of your house, AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada said.

"In the worst-case scenario, flood waters from a faraway storm can quickly flow downstream, causing water levels to rise several feet in a matter of 15 or 30 minutes," Lada said. "In a more common, less extreme situation, water levels will rise at a more gradual pace, taking several hours for floodwaters to put your house in danger."

One of the most important things that people should do is keep updated on the latest flood watches and flood warnings, Lada said.

"Watches and warnings can tell you when you can expect flooding, giving you time to prepare. If you wait until the last minute, the floodwaters may make it difficult or impossible to reach a safe area away from the flood waters," Lada said.

High ground away from rivers, lakes and other bodies of water is the ideal location for avoiding flood waters, Lada said.

"If you go to higher ground but it's near the body of water that is flooding, you may find yourself on dry land, but surrounded by water as the flood waters rise," he said.

"If you do find yourself in your house surrounded by floodwaters, you should go to the second story of your house with food, water and other supplies. If your home only has one story, relocating to your roof may be your only option for staying dry until you can be rescued."

A majority of flood deaths are vehicle-related with motorists trying to drive through flood waters, AccuWeather Meteorologist Evan Duffey said.

"Most people know they can get to the roof or attic if floodwaters overrun a home but driving through floodwaters is the big problem," Duffey said.

Flood situations can be very difficult for firefighters who may not have boats and other specialized equipment for water rescues, said Duffey, who is also a Pennsylvania volunteer firefighter.

"If there are a lot of rescues going on, the companies with specialized equipment will be using their resources and may be overwhelmed," Duffey said. "Other companies assisting may only have rope and life preservers."