Be Prepared: Flooding and Severe Storms

The Cleveland Department of Public Safety and Cleveland Office of Emergency Management encourage you to be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live or work, but especially if you are in low-lying areas, near water, or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood. Even if you feel you live in a community with a low risk of flooding and/or your home has never flooded before, remember that anywhere it rains, it can flood.


Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall and sometimes have a dangerous wall of water carrying debris. Overland flooding, the most common type of flooding event typically occurs when waterways such as rivers or streams overflow their banks. It can also occur when rainfall exceeds the capacity of underground pipes, or the capacity of streets and drains designed to carry flood water away from urban areas. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Stay tuned to local weather experts and information online, on TV or on the radio until the threat has passed.
  • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of streams, drainage channels, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
  • If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:

    • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
    • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if safe to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances.
    • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water!
  • If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
    • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
    • Do not drive into flooded areas. Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
    • If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.
    • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.

What to do about Downed Power Lines?


Never touch, move or go near any downed or hanging lines. The first action should be to call 9-1-1 or your local utility. Cleveland Public Power’s Trouble Line can be reached by calling 216-664-3156. Do not put your feet in water where a downed line is laying Do not try to move tree limbs If you see someone who has come into contact with a downed line, do not touch them, again call 9-1-1

If a line comes down on your car stay inside, roll down your window and warn others to stay away. Call authorities or ask a passerby to call authorities. The only time you should exit a vehicle with a downed line on it is if it has caught fire. If the vehicle is on fire, open the door and jump with both feet together to avoid contact with the car. It is metal and therefore you could receive a shock.

Flooding or storm damage?

Turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box if it can be done without standing in water, even if the power is out. If residents cannot get to the electrical panel without standing in water, they should contact their local supplier to request electrical service to the property be turned off. For Cleveland Public Power customers, the CPP Trouble Line is 216-664-3156

Report water in the basement or street flooding to Cleveland Water Pollution Control by calling 216-664-2513. The customer service unit will collect the information and take any action they can to assist in draining the water. Call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible.

Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage assuming there is no danger to the resident to do so. Closely inspect property for damage. Note and photograph any damage. If required to seek temporary housing, residents should check their policy for “loss of use” coverage. Be sure everything is considered in the insurance claim and back up claims with written estimates. See the Severe Storm Recovery Toolkit from the Ohio Department of Insurance website

For information about social, health and government resources 24 hours a day, contact United Way by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting

In addition, report storm-related stream flooding, unstable stream banks, or stream maintenance issues (like blockages caused from large floating debris) to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District at 216 881-8247.

Driving? Keep an Eye out for Flooding! Turn Around Don’t Drown

floodRemember if you come up on a flooded roadway, always Turn Around Don’t Drown! You may think your vehicle can make it through (or that you have some mad driving skills) but the depth of water is not always obvious. In fact:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling;
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles; and
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups.

You should never attempt to drive through a flooded roadway even if it appears shallow. The road bed may be washed out under the water and you could easily become stranded or trapped. If you come up on a barricade, remember it is there for your safety so don’t drive around it. Turn Around Don’t Drown and stick to the designated re-route.

And last, but not least, be especially cautious while driving at night. It is much harder to recognize flood dangers in the dark.