Northwest NEWS

January 10, 2000

Front Page

King County Flood Warning Center watches river conditions

   When the weather turns wet or snow melts rapidly in the mountains, King County Department of Natural Resources staff steps up monitoring of local rivers.

   If rivers rise to certain levels, the department opens its Flood Warning Center to provide around-the-clock coordination of weather and river flooding information. The Center is designed to give citizens at least two hours warning to prepare for possible serious flooding.

   The King County Flood Warning Center has been in operation for over two decades, providing critical flood warning information to county residents and property owners.

   The Center helped coordinate response through all the recent federally declared flood disasters in King County (November 1990, November 1995, February 1996, and January 1997). It helped compile information that resulted in millions of dollars in federal and state flood relief grants to King County.

   The Flood Warning Center provides a recorded message (206-296-8200 or 1-800-945-9263) updated each hour that describes conditions on King County's major rivers during a flood. Residents can speak directly to a staff member via the Flood Center Hotline (206-296-4535 or 1-800-768-7932).

   Center managers send out flood patrol teams to inspect levees, flood maintenance facilities, recent repairs, or reported trouble spots. River gauge information provided by the U.S. Geological Service electronic river monitoring system also is available to anyone who logs onto the Center's website at

   Operation of the Center is based on a four-phase warning system with Phase Four being the most serious and potentially dangerous to people and property.

   The Flood Warning Center works closely with the National Weather Service to obtain forecast information used by the weather service to make flood predictions. It works in tandem with the King County Roads Division, which has crews out posting road closures as water covers roadways. It also coordinates with the city of Seattle and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operate dams on local rivers. County DNR and Roads communications staff work together to keep the media informed of river and road conditions. The Center also works closely with the King County Emergency Operations Center during major flooding conditions.

   The Flood Warning Center is part of King County's Floodplain Management Program and its Flood Hazard Reduction Plan. It is an important element in the federal government's decision to offer a 20 percent reduction in flood insurance rates to citizens in unincorporated King County.

   King County is the only county in the nation and one of only 15 local jurisdictions to have a Class Six rating in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Rating System for floodplain management.

   Floods most commonly occur from November through February during periods of heavy rain or rapid snowmelt. Historically, King County Rivers have flooded in every month but August.