Sandless sandbags for floods

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by Vanessa Coria, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on November 21, 2013 at 8:26 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 8:00 AM

VIRGINIA BEACH—If you’ve lived in Hampton Roads for any length of time, you’ve dealt with flooding near or in your home, or know someone who has.  Whether its rain water run-off, storm surge or tidal flooding -- nearly all of us fall prey to some kind of flooding when a storm hits.

City and County governments have flood mitigation programs in place for when the waters rise, but they don’t cover private citizens. People like Jan Solock, who lives on a branch of the Elizabeth River in Virginia Beach, know all too well what happens when the tide is high and a storm is blowing.

“On our street, the water floods both ways, to MY house,” explain Solock.

She says the water goes right up-to and sometimes into her garage, but that isn’t her only problem, “I have a leak that’s coming from underneath my crawl space where the flood waters coming in when it’s raining, especially when we’re having heavy rains.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk district has a water resource division. One of their jobs is flood plain management. They also offer advice for homeowners who want to mitigate the devastating damage caused by flooding.  Their first bit of advice: buy flood insurance.

“You can elevate your utilities. If you have a heating/air conditioning unit, you can elevate that above the base flood elevation and that can help reduce, even your flood insurance,” explain Michelle Hamor, Chief of the Flood Plain Management Services Section.

She goes on to say, you can also add more flood openings to your crawl space, elevate your home or take the more costly option and even move it outside of the flood plain.  But Hamor says the most important thing you can do is know your risk.  Is your home actually ‘in’ a flood zone?

“There are multiple resources that they can go and find, one is the FEMA Map Service Center, there’s also another web link called the Flood Risk Information System,” explains Hamor.

Tools she suggests all people have on hand for a storm include: duct tape, tarps, rope, and general tools.

What about sandbags? They’re often what you see when a hurricane or other major weather event is coming. An inventor in London believes his creation can help when flood waters threaten.  He calls them ‘sandless sandbags’ and believes they are a more cost effective, more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional sandbags.

“We know it will make a difference if people have the product in their home and are able to administer it pre-flood,” explains Richard Bailey, FloodSax inventor and founder.

FloodSax are light weight, cotton bags, filled with a bio-degradable polymer. When activated with fresh water, they can be used just like sandbags. They soak-up 5.5 gallons of water then are able to effectively repel water for up to three months after activation. They can also be used dry, to soak-up household messes at the sink, tub, water heater or toilet.

“These are just simple things. You’re never going stop three feet or six feet of water.  If you have nice possessions in your home and you need time to get them moved, that’s what FloodSax does,” says Bailey.

Jan Solock tried them out after a recent weather event in the area.  She ended up with standing water in her garage.

“It soaked up the whole puddle, even the stuff that was going out the garage door,” explains Solock.

Solock found them useful and even made a comparison to traditional sandbags.

“They’re very light weight to begin with and they’re not that heavy. Now, having grown up on the Mississippi River and having some flooding from that, I know how heavy sandbags are to move around,” says Solock.

The folks at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say your flood mitigation plan should always be multi-layered and never rely on just one line of defense.

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