Director of Partners for Action
Winter flooding can cause severe damage to your home and possessions. Therefore, it’s important to be aware and to take preventative measures.
When you think of extreme weather events in the wintertime, you may think of snow flurries, blizzards, sleet, freezing rain, or ice storms. Winter flooding is less likely to cross your mind, but it’s a very real risk during the winter months. The general lack of awareness amongst Canadian homeowners and renters about winter flooding increases the risk and danger because many people fail to take the appropriate precautions.
Understanding the risk and impact of flooding
A national study done by Partners for Action, an applied research network dedicated to reducing the risk of flood damage and advancing flood resiliency in Canadian communities, shows that Canadians are unaware and unprepared when it comes to flood risk. The low levels of concern, awareness, and preparedness are a triple whammy that leaves Canadians especially defenceless.
“Flooding can happen at any time of year, but in the winter we’re particularly vulnerable as the ground can’t soak up as much water, and ice jams can interfere with how the water normally flows,” says Julie Wright, Director of Partners for Action. “There’s a perception that it’s unexpected.”
As Wright notes, winter flooding is, in fact, not at all unexpected. Every year, floods in Canada cost governments and individuals billions of dollars — and that price tag keeps rising. “We used to be pretty good at predicting when flooding would happen, but now it’s more of a wild card,” says Wright. “Climate change makes everything more uncertain.” In addition to the increase in extreme weather expected due to climate change, the surge of development in high-risk locations driven by economic growth is also adding to that risk.
And the risk is substantial, as flooding can damage homes immensely. “Water getting into your basement can cause structural damage and damage to your carpeting, drywall, furniture, items of value, and personal possessions,” says Wright. “There’s also the potential for mould and mildew setting in.”
Raising awareness about winter flooding
Wright urges Canadians to know their risks and to take the necessary steps to get prepared. Knowing whether you live near a waterway, for example, is essential.
Preventative measures that can be taken to protect your investments — your home and your possessions — include making sure that snow and ice are regularly removed from around your home and yard (especially around your home’s foundation), keeping your eavestroughs clear, installing rain barrels, grading your property so that water flows away from your home, installing covers for basement window wells, and getting familiar with your local floodplain map.
“Another thing to consider is that we often keep valuables in the basement, including home electronic systems, gaming consoles, and sentimental items like photographs,” says Wright. “That’s a risky place for them with basement flooding. Consider what is valuable to you and move those items out of your basement.”
The time to take these preventative actions is right now. “When you’re thinking about preparing your car for the winter, you should also be thinking about preparing your home,” says Wright.