Northwest NEWS

November 11, 2002

Editorial

Time to prepare for flood season

From King County Dept. of Natural Resources and Parks
   The cooler, damper days serve as a reminder that winter flood season is approaching.
   Residents living in flood-prone areas should prepare for the possibility of rising rivers and streams with a personal flood-preparedness plan. People in flood-prone areas are urged to prepare their families now, making sure they know emergency phone numbers, identifying the safest evacuation route and establishing a meeting place in case family members are separated by rising water.
   In some cases, purchasing sand and sandbags can help to protect property. Residents should have emergency supplies: a portable radio, flashlight, fresh batteries, emergency cooking equipment, non-perishable food, drinking water, essential medications and a first aid kit.
   Floods in King County most commonly occur between November and February during heavy rain and rapid snow melt. The Skykomish, Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers all have a history of flooding during winter months as do many urban steams.
   King County's Department of Natural Resources and Parks is preparing for the flood season by reviewing flood warning procedures and response plans with city, fire, police and roads' employees at annual flood awareness meetings. Employees who provide flood warning services are also conducting hands-on training in the field and at the Flood Warning Center this month to update internal procedures and ensure flood warning response services are ready for immediate deployment.
   When river levels reach a certain threshold, King County's Flood Warning Center is opened and staffed around the clock to monitor river gauges, weather data, dam operations and road closures. King County staff mobilize to gather, analyze and distribute flood warning information so that residents, businesses, property owners and emergency response officials can make important health and safety decisions. In most locations, the flood warning system provides at least two hours warning before floodwaters reach damaging levels.
   The Flood Warning Center collects information from members of flood patrols who check levees for damage or indications of weakness. Flood patrols also respond to concerns and emergencies phoned in by property owners. Flood Warning Center employees work closely with the National Weather Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the King County Office of Emergency Management and Roads Services Division to obtain up-to-date information on flooding conditions, problem sites and the need for other emergency services.
   King County's floodplain management program and flood warning service are nationally recognized for excellence by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This FEMA recognition results in a 30 percent discount in flood insurance rates for policyholders in unincorporated King County.
   During river flooding events, the Department of Natural Resources and Parks operates a recorded message center with hourly updates of river gauge readings, predicted flood crests and other information on dam operations. The recorded message number is (206) 296-8200 or 1-800-945-9263.
   When the Flood Warning Center is open, citizens can directly contact King County staff with their flooding concerns and questions by calling (206) 296-4535 or 1-800-768-7932. River gauge information is also available from the Department's Web site at: http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/flood/flood.htm.
   Questions or assistance with flooding on smaller streams or urban drainage problems can be called into (206) 296-1900 during business hours and (206) 296-8100 after hours or on weekends.
   For more information about King County flood warning services, a map and tips on what to do before, during and after a flood, call (206) 296-8001.