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As little as six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet. Two feet of moving water can wash away a car. Property damage from floods now totals more than a billion dollars a year in the United States. Floods are second only to fires as the most common natural disaster.

Flash floods are the result of severe storms dropping a large amount of rain in a very short time overwhelming both natural and manmade drainage systems. Low-lying areas near water or downstream from a dam are especially at risk. Flash floods occur with little or no warning in all 50 states and can involve a rapidly moving wall of water.

Gwinnett County has about 22,000 acres of floodplain, where building is regulated by a floodplain management ordinance. Maps of flood hazards, the 100-Year Floodplain, and other local flood information are available online.

Homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage, but insurance agents can offer flood insurance backed by the federal government. Flood waters can cause structural damage to buildings, promote the growth of molds and mildew, and spread infectious diseases if contaminated with sewage. Prompt water removal and cleanup is very important.

Installing check valves in sewer lines can help prevent floodwaters from backing up in sewer drains. Be aware that electrical current can flow through water. Disconnect electricity and shut off gas in areas likely to be flooded. Watch out for snakes and animals seeking higher ground, and don’t drive through a flooded area.