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Catastrophic Flooding Overview

Catastrophic FloodingCatastrophic flooding is, unsurprisingly, one of the worst water damage situations a property owner can face. These are situations such as the 2013 floods in Alberta and Toronto, where water filled the streets and caused several billion dollars worth of damage overall. When facing water damage of this magnitude, fast action is necessary to mitigate the worst of the damage and save as much as possible through flood damage repair and cleanup.

What Causes Catastrophic Floods?

A catastrophic flood event is the result of a combination of powerful weather, geography, and infrastructure failures.


Almost all catastrophic floods happen as a direct or indirect result of a high volume of rain and strong winds. The combination causes lakes and rivers to swell, and the wind creates “surges” as water is basically compressed and pushed off into the surrounding area. If this happens on a large enough scale, local drainage systems become overwhelmed and effectively useless. Due to climate change, such powerful weather events are becoming more common.


Low-lying or below sea-level areas are particularly vulnerable to catastrophic flooding since any excess water will naturally flow through them once rivers overflow. In some cases, natural drainage channels may end up getting modified or blocked by significant natural events like landslides, placing further stress on any inhabitants.


Any municipality vulnerable to flooding has various infrastructure elements in place, from levies to storm drains, to reduce the risk to people and property. If this infrastructure is not properly maintained, updated, or supported, it can easily become overwhelmed and fail. Certain building elements such as backwater valves, reverse-slope driveways, or grade of construction, can amplify or mitigate the flooding risk to an individual property.

The Impact of Catastrophic Flooding

Setting aside the millions or billions of dollars in damages that catastrophic floods can inflict on an area, there are other impacts to consider. Houses can become damaged, unsafe, or otherwise uninhabited; valuable property and possessions can be lost; people can get sick or seriously injured, and economic activity grinds to a halt as people suddenly have much more important things to worry about than going to work.

Responding to Catastrophic Floods

In the aftermath of a catastrophic flood event, try to keep the following tips in mind to safely and effectively respond to the situation.

  • Do not walk through moving water. It can take as little as six inches of water to knock someone over. Use a stick to prod the ground ahead of you and check for stability if outdoors
  • Keep children away from flood waters
  • Do not eat any fresh food that has come into contact with flood water
  • If you have not already done so, disconnect the main utilities
  • Disconnect all electrical appliances if you have not already done so. Do not touch electrical equipment that is wet or in standing water
  • Keep a radio handy and listen for official instructions and information
  • Contact a flood damage repair and restoration company as soon as possible.

Flood Services Canada is a leading quick-response remediation service that operates within the Toronto, Oakville, Ajax, Whitby, Georgina, Barrie, Mississauga, and Lakeshore areas. We stand ready 24/7 to provide the best techniques, personnel, and technology to ensure your home or business is clean, safe, dry, and documented as soon as possible.

Contact us at (416) 302-2107 to learn more about our flood remediation and storm damage restoration services, or use our emergency hotline at (416)-999-3930 to get our rapid response teams deployed to your area.

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Chad Vanvari

Chad Vanvari has over 20 years of experience as a cleaning & restoration professional. He started out in Montreal, establishing a commercial carpet cleaning company in the early 1990’s. By 2001, Chad had relocated to Toronto and now had extensive knowledge and experience in responding to fire/water related emergencies. He has been instrumental in the cleanup of several catastrophic floods. Currently, Chad is the president and owner of Flood Services Canada, a 24/7 emergency service restoration company.