Preparing For Flooding in Rural Areas
Do the following based on the probability of flooding or wet conditions:
- Test your sump pump to make sure it is operating properly. Visit the Sump Pumps page to learn how.
- Move snow away from building foundations.
- Build small ditches to divert water away from your property.
- Build a dike around your home or other structure. See the Sandbagging page for information on the correct way to build a dike.
- Put appliances such as washers, dryers and freezers in basements up on wood or cement blocks if flooding is threatening.
- Shut off power to flood-threatened electrical appliances at the fuse box or breaker panel.
- Move valuables, such as irreplaceable family photos, high school yearbooks, tax records, insurance policies, household inventories, and hazardous material, such as agricultural chemicals, paint, oil and cleaning supplies, to higher locations.
- If your septic system’s drain field will become flooded or saturated, plug all basement drains and drastically reduce water use in the house or any other water entering the septic system. Unbolt toilets from the floor to plug the outlet pipe. See Plugging Household Drains (Video) for more information.
- Tie down fuel tanks and other equipment or material to keep it from floating away in floodwaters.
- Use material such as heavy plastic and duct tape to seal your well cap and top of the well casing to keep floodwaters out. See Protecting Wells From Flooding for more information.
- Have an emergency power source, such as a standby generator. See Standby Electric Generators for more information.
- Assemble emergency supplies in case roads become impassible.
Safe Shelter and Evacuation
Plans should be made weeks ahead of a potential disaster, with consideration given to pens, loading facilities, transportation, evacuation routes and final destination of livestock. Livestock out on pasture are especially susceptible to displacement by flooding.
Make a plan that represents your flood risk as it relates to your livestock housing and pasture accessibility. Options may include safety in enclosed structures, higher pasture ground, evacuation to higher elevation, or relocation to local alternatives such as auction barn, fairgrounds, etc.
Consider where barns are located when being used for livestock shelter. If a barn is located in a flood plain like most old barns built close to water, then provide an escape route for the cattle to leave if an overnight flood occurs. Do not shut the barn door unless you check livestock every few hours.
A necessary evacuation from shelter to a safer place may be necessary in emergency.
Unconfined livestock can usually take care of themselves during floods. Be sure animals are evacuated before floodwaters enter barns and other enclosed livestock areas.
Do not let them become trapped in low-lying pens. If flooding arises in traditional livestock buildings, animals have a greater chance of survival outside. Animals sometimes refuse to leave during a rapid rise of water and may drown inside if the water rises high enough.
Although cattle will move to higher ground if possible, they may move to areas where rescue is not possible. Trying to rescue cattle and other large livestock in deep-water situations is dangerous and can be deadly to animals and people.
Floodwaters often prevent producers from reaching feed supplies either directly or through damage to roads. Road or field conditions with wet spring weather may limit ability to move feedstuffs to our livestock near our home operation.
Having feed supplies on hand is important because feed assistance may not be available during a flood. Ranchers should pre-select sites on high ground for hay, emergency water supplies, and fencing supplies or panels.
Ranchers also need to be aware that moving feed may cause problems. Road weight restrictions can limit ranchers ability to haul in new feed if they use coproducts such as beet pulp, beet tailings or distiller’s grains to feed their cattle.
Provide forage as possible, but plan for grain supplementation at or near the barn for calving, lambing, or kidding when energy needs are greatest during lactation. If supplementing grain, increase amount gradually to prevent acidosis or overeating disease.
Preparing for Muddy Conditions
While not all areas will experience flooding, mud is likely to be an issue on many farms and ranches during spring. Mud can reduce the insulation value of hair coats, increase energy requirements, and increase the potential for foot rot and other health issues.
Mud also may chill or trap newborn calves and lambs, and can carry a variety of pathogens that can affect calves and lambs directly or through contact with dirty udders. There may be few options once muddy conditions are in place.
While pasture growth may be delayed, having a location for relief from snow/mud during calving may help with producer access to calving cows and calf health.
Mud may force producers to move livestock to temporary feeding areas such as stockpiled pastures with adequate drainage or fields containing crop residue such as corn stalks.
With cattle feedlots, scrape lots to maintain a 3% to 5% slope away from the feed bunk, and reshape mounds to ensure improved drainage and high spots for confined animals. Make sure all animals have access to clean water and adequate feed.
SAFETY MEASURES WHEN FLOODING IS EXPECTED
If you live in an area prone to flooding or if flooding has been anticipated for some time, have an emergency plan for evacuation. It should include such considerations as family safety, equipment safety, livestock relocation and temporary milking facilities.
When flooding is hours or minutes away, keep your priorities straight. Ensure family safety first. Be certain you have enough time to get to higher ground before access is cut off. If you have time before receiving an evacuation order, a number of precautions may help you protect your property and livestock.
Take these precautions if flooding is common to your area or anticipated this season:
Create an emergency plan of action, considering such things as areas of high ground for animal relocation, temporary milking facilities and approval to use them, equipment relocation and safe pesticide storage.
Be sure cattle are properly immunized before being exposed to floodwaters.
Arrange or be aware of standby services for emergency milk pick-up.
Have a plan for moving grain out of reach of floodwaters.
Provide riprap on banks of earthen manure storages where flowing water may erode berms.
If time is available, take the following precautions:
Move machinery, feed, grain, pesticides and herbicides to a higher elevation. If you have a two-story barn, the upper level makes a good temporary storage facility.
Open gates so livestock can escape high water.
If water is rising, try to drive stock through water free of obstructions. Grazing animals swim well, but the greatest problem for them are fences and other obstacles. Long swims through calm water are safer than short swims through a swift current.
Leave building doors and windows open at least 2 inches to equalize pressure and help prevent buildings from shifting.
If possible, move motors and portable electric equipment to a dry location.
Disconnect electric power to all buildings which may be flooded. If in doubt about how to disconnect power, call your utility company.
Tie down lumber, logs, irrigation pipes, fuel tanks and other loose equipment or material. Secondary containment is another possibility for fuel tanks, as well as pesticide storage.
To keep surface water out of your well, use materials such as heavy plastic and duct tape to seal the well cap and top of the well casing.