How to Survive a Flood: What I Learned in Venezuela
by J.G. Martinez D
It seems like floods are becoming more and more common all over the world. I am not going to write any useless dissertation about what causes these huge flooding events we are starting to witness everywhere. There are a lot of people more qualified than me that have dedicated their lives to research about it. But I do want to write about how to protect ourselves and survive a flood, because I experienced a very unexpected situation that, after passing that scary moment, I realized that was very dangerous afterward.
The danger of a flood is that they can be unpredictable, and the amount of energy they unchain is vast.
Editor’s Note: I think there is a lot to learn about disasters from the way they’re handled elsewhere. Different areas have different supplies available and different norms, and this can help us to quickly adapt the things we have on hand during an emergency. Learning about the way the deal with natural disasters in other locales can provide very useful to the wise prepper. ~ Daisy
Floods in Venezuela
I have seen videos in the middle of a Caracas highway filled with water so high that cars started to float, and the level was up to the window. I have never been a fan of 4x4s, but I started to reconsider this after seeing how the only cars that did not suffer any damage were the raised up and all-terrain capable 4x4s driven by young men (mostly) with snorkels and such, that could climb the 1.5 meters high roadside to get out of the water.
Sadly, that day I remember having read about an elder man that, trapped in his car in the middle of the highway, suffered a heart attack. May God have mercy of his soul. With some self-control, and leaving his car for a while, getting into one of the 4x4s, that, even parked, they seemed to be much safer (there was no place to go, really, the highway was collapsed) he could have survived.
In our area, the weather was somewhat predictable: rain, then sun, and then rain again, and sometimes even the sun while raining. The soil is quite permeable, and land mostly flat. So, unlike other areas, mudslides like those in Vargas state (Venezuela) are unlikely.
However, once the equilibrium point between the water absorption rate of the soil and the rain amount was surpassed…water starts to accumulate, logically. The drain system is usually good, depending on how clean it is.
However, these last few years, local government contracts for these jobs are no longer profitable, and the drains are filled with all kind of debris. Garbage collection is not done by private companies (Uncle Hugo took good care of that and plenty similar business, because private employees do not go to demonstrations to show support to any president) but by the local government. Therefore, garbage is starting to pile up everywhere, in every city of Venezuela. These clog the drains, and voila. You have suddenly half a meter of water and your car becomes a boat…without being designed to navigate in body waters.
Every area has different flood risks
But let’s get back on topic.
Depending on your surroundings, city or country, you could have a different level of risk in a flood. I have seen pictures of the half of the first floors of a building getting flooded in Caracas, just under heavy rains, and drains clogged by debris dragged from the surrounding poor barrios, where garbage collection is inconsistent, so to speak.
I don’t like apartment living, though, mainly because I am not usually allowed to get my bike inside the living room. One of the parameters I used to select our home, where we would live with the kids, over ten years ago, was how far away it would be from drains, schools, supermarket, the access to the water grid, and how stable was the electricity. With the storms and winds, this would be very useful after all. I mean by drains those huge channels, almost one meter deep, one meter wide that are needed when it really rains.
And in some subdivisions, these channels are much larger. Seasonal water streams are a problem because many times urbanization was done in former horse field, where there was only pasture, and with natural streams that had been running there for centuries.
When there is enough rain, the water looks for the best roads, no matter if 40 years ago they built houses there.
One of my former coworkers lives nearby a huge channel, which it is supposed to conduct water to one of these seasonal streams. In the middle of a storm, water started to flow backward through the channel. Imagine the mess. There were homes where people came back from work, to find out that their place was immersed in one and a half foot of filthy water. And this was in a middle-class subdivision. Imagine the poor barrios.
Another problem is when the backyards get flooded because of too much rain.
Our own flood preparedness set-up
We have rain gutters that go to the street, but it is always a concern that the nearby drain could overflow. It has not yet happened, but there is a pump, a gen-set, and enough hoses to drive the water outside…via the main door. All of this is conveniently housed in their movable racks, high enough, and with the wiring in good condition.
In case water started to come out of the backyard drain, immediately the pumping plan starts. All of this is done with transparent hoses for very important reasons: if the water level is too low for the pump, cavitation would destroy it, and this way we also can see if there is debris in the water too that could damage the turbine. This can be detected by checking the pumping through the clear hoses, something that I highly recommend.
We used to clean this drain (it is a 6 in. underground pipe, all the way from the backyard, under the house, to the main road) with 2 or 3 bottles of drain cleaner, once a year. Dog and cat hair, and all kind of small residues would be dissolved (hopefully), and the water would drag the rest.
For us, manual pumps are very hard to find: our farms received water enough in the rainy season, and many of them have lagoons for irrigation in summer. There was, and yet there is no need for underground water, so manual pumps as those you have were not necessary, and a very rare item around here.
If you can buy one at a price you can afford, it would be a good substitute for your electric one, such something happens and you don’t have electricity. I know, hand pumping is a pain. I have seen it in the movies and it does not seem something that could be done quickly or in time. However…remember you have a bike, don’t you? Why not make shifting a rig to use it for pumping? Just in case. Basic carpentry or welding skills, one hour with a pencil and a sheet of paper, some discarded engine belts and a couple of pulleys, some scrap metal strips and you are done.
Trust me, if you don’t have money enough, you can design something that will work for you. And it is a simple device, so it is not going to be hard to build. Both of my grandpas were Europeans so I love bikes. I believe there is something very attractive about them, they use our bigger muscles and allow us to go from one place to another while being sitting, and without using any fuel (that is the best part). And the multiplied motion they provide, can have lots of uses. Your imagination is the limit.
Preparing for a flood
OK, now let’s see what situation faces our fellow preppers living in a homestead.
Despite the envy of some of us (just kidding!), the situation, should the flood occurs in the adjacencies of a cottage in the country, is very dependent on plenty of variables: how high the facilities like barn, stables, chicken coops, and similar are, how far away we are of the water streams…if there are some potential source of flooding, for example.
My suggestion for those living in the country would be to assess the clearly weak spots in their places, detect potential hazards, and use some spare time to put in practice some useful ideas. Keep tracking of the condition of drains, although I am sure many of you already have this as a routine item.
If you don’t want something to get wet, find a watertight hard case, and get it inside. Make sure it has a handle for easy transport. I recommend these kind of cases from the beginning, and all of my important papers like photographs, old family letters and documents are there, carefully wrapped in a fireproof fabric I found. I have a few of these cases, but I tested them previously, and all of them float, without letting water coming into the case as long as it is not submerged.
By the way…If rain is not heavy in your area that does not mean you are safe, buddy. You don’t know what is happening upstream your place. So keep an eye (or one ear) close to the radio and alarm/warning official systems).
Something that I would like to provide some advice on, is the need for having our equipment, especially the electronic, ALWAYS ready for packing. I mean, if you have wires all over the place, try to make a bundle of it, if all of the wires are going to be used at the same time. It is much easier to unplug and store in a hurry a cable bundle, than one by one. And it looks much better, too, making the setup neat and tidy This way you won’t forget any cable that could potentially be much-needed afterward. Keep their storage hard case nearby, out of sight, but close, so you can pick it up in seconds. Of course, this must be watertight. No matter if floods in your area are common, or not. Rain and a pool some centimeters deep day could ruin your day and cause you a loss.
Driving through a flooded area
I have witnessed a huge flood that almost took a small village to the ruin. Illegal water reservoirs upstream could not stand the pressure of all the water collected in a continuous rain that lasted 4 days. Of course, the dams gave up…and the resulting disaster almost finishes out a village that had been there the last 150 years or so.
photo credit: BBC
The water was almost 1.60 meters deep – over 5 feet. The only vehicles capable to go through such river were 4x4s with snorkels and large semi-trucks, 18 wheels. Crops were lost, the asphalt layer of the road was missing, homes were damaged…you can imagine. We were traveling and had to come back home just to take some other road the next morning. Even with a 4×4…I was not going to risk crossing that river with my family in the car. We were on vacation, and nothing was lost. The risk was going to be too much.
Something that made me see how powerful water streams are, was when one driver crossed and stopped his rig next to us. He mentioned that the steering wheel was so hard to keep straight, that he almost missed the remains of the asphalt that was left (there was people in the edge of the asphalt, chest deep in the water, guiding the semis).
Driving through such deep water is a very risky activity, fellows. Trust me, been there. And on a motorcycle! But this history will leave it for some other day.
I want to give special regards to those who have contributed with some assistance to us. For those who cannot, we do know that you are with us, from your heart, and that is enough!
Thanks for your reading fellows! And stay safe!
About the Author
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. paypal.me/JoseM151