Northwest NEWS

December 4, 2000

Features

King County Flood Warning Center monitors rising rivers

As the area enters the annual winter rainy season, King County wants to be sure that citizens have the tools they need to deal with winter flooding and its consequences.
   Wet weather will have the King County Department of Natural Resources staff stepping 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 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 Web site at http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/flood/flood.htm.
   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. Phases are issued independently for each of the county's major rivers including the Snoqualmie, Tolt, Cedar, Green and White rivers as well as major creeks, such as Issaquah Creek.
   Phase One means county staff are alerted and preparations are made to open the Flood Warning Center. A Phase Two alert usually involves lowland flooding and closure of roads and is the level at which the center is activated.
   Phase Three involves flooding that begins to be more of a threat because of depth and velocity of the water.
   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 Managment Program and its Flood Hazard Reduction Plan.
   Floods most commonly occur from November through February during periods of heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt.