We’ve been experiencing a lot of soggy weather in Fair Oaks lately—and it’s not over. While the weather forecast may not be certain, one thing we do know is that the river is about to rise—the Bureau of Reclamation has made the decision to increase the water releases from the Folsom Lake. I thought it sounded a bit crazy at first, because we’ve been in a drought situation for the past few years and the reservoir levels have been low, but with the heavy rain in early December, levels have risen dramatically, taking them over the limit set by the Central Valley Project so the reservoir can handle runoff from snow during the winter without flooding in the spring. It’s also designed to manage drinking water levels and provide hydroelectricity.
For Fair Oaks residents, this means the American River running adjacent to our town will run higher and faster than it usually does this month. So much higher, in fact, that officials are closing parks near the river for fear they might flood. What does that mean for us and other towns in the floodplain? We’re potentially at risk for some flooding. The good news is, the water release is to prevent any major overflow from the reservoir in the future. But, in the short term, low-lying areas like Fair Oaks need to be prepared for that extra water to potentially spill into backyards.
How to Protect Your Home from Flooding
Fair Oaks is in a floodplain, putting us at high risk for flooding, but there are measures that can be taken to guard against it. We’re in the middle of the Lower American River Watershed where water levels are often taken to assess the extent of the river’s rise, giving us a pretty good idea of what to expect for our property.
Knowing what’s coming your way can help you put in safeguards against water that may overflow, like installing plumbing features to control the flow of that water. Here are some of the easiest ways to guard against possible flood waters:
- Shut off your main power: If the local news warns of flood waters headed your way, shut off the power to your home at the main electrical panel. This can prevent you or your family from getting a good shock if water gets into your electrical service.
- Check your drainage: Make sure french drains and gutters around your house are clear of debris so they can effectively move excess water away from your home. Make sure there are an ample number of drains and other eaves far enough from the home for water to drain into. Contact a local plumbing professional if you need guidance on whether or not your home and lawn are adequately equipped to drain large amounts of water.
- Check your foundation for cracks: Even if flood waters are minimal, a little water seeping into your home can become a breeding ground for harmful mold and mildew. Check your foundation and areas around the floor of your home for cracks and leaks and make sure these are repaired and sealed tightly to prevent any moisture from coming in.
- Install a backflow prevention valve: This valve is installed in your indoor plumbing line to prevent potable, or drinkable, water from being contaminated. Overflow from flood waters can cause the sewage lines to backup in your home and mix with your drinking water. These devices can be installed by a trusted plumbing professional in our bathrooms and kitchen to protect your faucets.
- Consider enclosing your basement: The old school of thought was to let your basement or crawl space vent so that air and water could pass through it without trapping it. Now building professionals realize this can create mold and pest problems. Enclosing your basement and installing vapor barriers is the best preventative measure against flooding.
- Inspect your sump pump: Should your basement fill with water, a sump pump can effectively and quickly drain your basement. If you don’t already have one, this kind of pump has hoses that pull water back outside and away from your home. Have a plumber check your sump pump to make sure it’s functioning correctly. If you don’t have one, you can invest rather inexpensively in a battery powered one. Contact a plumbing professional for advice on the best solution for your basement.
- Install a water sensor: These can be installed in your basement and alert you when water is present. Some of the fancier types can even send a message to your phone.
My House Is Flooding Anyway: Do I Need a Plumber?
You’ve been glued to the news and you have the Department of Water Resources homepage up, keeping an eye on lake levels. You’ve done your due diligence to protect your home, but let’s face it, sometimes water finds a way in. Now it’s time to assess whether or not you need an expert to help clean up the mess. If you find yourself in any of the following situations, you should already be on the phone to a plumber:
- Pipes have burst: This one is probably a no-brainer, but some cracked pipes might be elusive after a flood. Flood waters can wash in all kinds of debris like leaves and dirt that can rest in your pipes and cause clogs and corrosion. And don’t forget that the force of moving water can also move piping, causing it to crack.
- The sump pump fails: The waters are rising, but you’re good because you’ve got a sump pump in your basement right? Not so fast. It’s not uncommon for a pump to give out under heavy water pressure, and even more so if it’s an electrical pump that could potentially become submerged. That’s why it’s good to have a backup or battery powered one in case of an electrical outage, or if waters rise enough that the pump needs to be moved.
- Drains are clogged: You can clean and prep your indoor and outdoor drains for impending flood waters, but it’s possible that they’ll get clogged up again. If you can access them easily, they should be easy to clean yourself, but harder to reach plumbing like clogged sewer lines underground can cause major problems to your system and should be handled by a licensed plumber or the city if there are problems at the main line.
Living by the water can feel risky when there’s a persistent threat to your property. The planned release of water from Folsom Lake is designed to prevent major, unexpected flooding in the event of a winter storm or buildup of water from melting snow, but it still poses a threat to those of us in the watershed directly affected by those rising lake waters. Being prepared for any possibility is the best way to avoid damage, as anyone who lives here knows. Take the necessary precautions this month, while the American River is rising, to help avoid making an unplanned call to your plumber. Instead, enjoy the start of the new year in your waterside home.
Prepare yourself and your home for the Folsom River water releases this month. Call Bell Brothers for advice on how to protect your home’s plumbing in the event of a flood.