Flooding affects people in a multitude of ways. People suffer stress on multiple fronts, not just as flooding occurs, but also in the anticipatory period preceding a flood and during the cleanup and recovery phase. Flooding can damage properties, destroy homes, create financial burden and cause emotional hardship. Coping with floods also can bring together communities, fostering camaraderie and goodwill.
Floods damage property. Flood waters damage land by eroding shore lines and stripping soils, as well as taking out whatever natural vegetation may be in the path of the flowing water. Floods also damage personal property, such as vehicles and homes, creating hazardous living conditions if water is not cleaned up immediately. Flood waters carry with them many health and injury risks, including diseases and hazards such as sharp glass or metals. Flooding also may contaminate water supplies, wreck drainage systems and damage farm crops.
Some insurance companies will cover damages caused by flooding, but others will not. Damage that is caused by natural causes is not universally covered by insurances. Homeowners should check with their insurance agent to ensure proper coverage for natural disasters. The National Flood Insurance Program is a source of insurance to many Americans. However, without proper insurance, flood-stricken families may be left without means to find alternate shelter or to meet their basic needs. Individual states may offer government aid to flood affected people. Also available are agencies, such as the Red Cross, that provide support during disasters.
People affected by flooding may experience a range of emotions, including anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, sadness and grief. It is natural for people who experience traumatic events, such as flooding, to experience difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, depressed or angry moods and heightened feelings of anxiety. Often mental health professionals are made available by organizations planning for disaster response, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the American Red Cross. Mental health professionals attend to the psychosocial needs of flood victims, ensuring that they receive timely information, have their basic needs met and are trained to watch for signs that someone is struggling to cope.
Loss of life is the most devastating experience flooding inflicts on people. This pain includes the loss of human life, livestock and beloved pets. Another long-term effect of flooding is economic hardship. This hardship is caused by the loss of livestock, farm crops, damage to food stores and damaged to industries or stores. Floods also damage the tourist industry, as travelers are more likely to avoid flood-damaged regions. Tourist attractions may be irreparably damaged.