COLLEGE STATION – In his well-known song, James Taylor wrote “I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain,” and the same can be said for many Texas residents, particularly during this past year.
“In addition to a record-breaking number of wildfires on 2011, we are now starting to see the other side of the coin with instances of flooding and flash flooding in many areas of the state,” said Dr. Andy Vestal, Texas AgriLife Extension Service director of homeland security and emergency management in College Station.
Vestal said the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network or Texas EDEN website, http://texashelp.tamu.edu, is an excellent source for a variety of free materials and information on emergencies and natural disasters, including floods and recovering from them.
“This site contains a variety of resources from AgriLife Extension and other entities of the Texas A&M University System, as well as other university Extension agencies, and state and national agencies or organizations dedicated to disaster mitigation and recovery,” he said. “Some of the materials are also available in Spanish.”
Materials on the Texas EDEN site have been selected and accumulated from a number of credible, objective sources, Vestal said.
“We have compiled them in an effort to give Texans and others easy access to useful information to help protect themselves and their families, and provide useful advice and guidance on disasters and emergencies.”
Vestal said flood-related materials on the site include: emergency food and water supplies, cleaning flood-damaged homes, dry-out before rebuilding, livestock preparedness and recovery, electrical power outages, post-flood safety, protecting and replacing personal documents, mold removal and repairing a flood-damaged home.
He noted that some flooding issues in the state will likely arise from or be exacerbated by the effects of recent wildfires.
“The flood risk will be greater in areas of the state that have had tens of thousands of acres denuded or otherwise adversely affected by wildfires,” Vestal said. “In addition, flooding and flash flooding may occur in areas where the ground has become extremely dry due to the extended drought and cannot adequately absorb a sudden, heavy rain.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when fire burns away trees and other vegetation, healthy roots that would normally absorb rainwater are lost. The resulting runoff may lead to severe erosion, mudslides and flooding.
In the past year, Texas has been hit by wildfires, high winds, dry weather and tornadoes. However, according to the National weather Service, floods remain the top disaster in loss of life, with an average of 15 Texans perishing annually in either floods or flash floods.
Data from the Texas Natural Resources Information System, part of the Texas Water Development Board, shows five Texas counties have a No. 1 or “most frequent” rating for flooding frequency, while 53 have the second-highest or No. 2 rating, based on the number of floods from 1961 to 2003. Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Jefferson and Tarrant counties have the highest frequency of flooding.
“Managing flood risk and responding to flood events can be a frustrating, laborious and expensive effort,” Vestal said. “But when your home or business experiences a flood, there are still things you can do to minimize damage, protect yourself and your family, and restore your property and protect it from further damage.”
Vestal added that the AgriLife Extension disaster recovery guide has also recently been made available free in e-book format. The “After a Disaster: Information to Help You and Your Family Recover” e-book contains information on various recovery-related topics, including keeping safe, assessing structural damage, debris removal, basic first aid, obtaining assistance, removing odors, controlling mold and insects, salvaging important documents, and helping family members cope.
In addition to downloading the entire guide in the e-book format, users may also download the complete guide or specific sections in PDF format. Download options can be found at http://texashelp.tamu.edu/disaster-recovery-guide-and-ebook.php.
“Now you can download this guide to your mobile device or tablet before a disaster happens, so you’ll have it available in the event you’re ever affected by one,” Vestal said. “The guide is a comprehensive but easy-to-understand publication with lists, worksheets, contacts and other useful material covering the preponderance of those issues and challenges people face in recovering from a disaster.”
Treye Rice, AgriLife Extension web usability and design specialist, said the guide was made available in e-book format in large part due to Internet search data from people affected by the many wildfires experienced throughout the state this year.
“The Texas EDEN website statistic and usage data collected during and after the Bastrop wildfires indicated that a large number of people were searching for disaster recovery information.” Rice said. “They were doing this using a mobile device, such as an Apple iPhone or Google Android Phone.”
Rice said the new e-book is currently only available in English, but a Spanish-language version will be available soon. However, the PDF version is already available for download in English and Spanish.
Disaster- and emergency-related publications may also be found online at the Texas AgriLife Bookstore, http://agrilifebookstore.org.