Agencies ready county for flood season
Summit Daily News
With snowpack totals well above average and approaching a 17-year record, county officials and emergency agencies gathered Monday to discuss preparations for what could be a very wet mud season.
The group laid out areas of major concern, took inventory of the county’s stockpile of sandbags – which is considerable – and began updating flooding information to be released to the public in the next few weeks.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is also equipped with emergency water rescue equipment, including a Zodiac boat and several personnel trained in swift-water rescue.
For the county public works department, flood management comes down to keeping culverts and water throughways clear of debris, ice and the occasional beaver dam.
The county doesn’t have a specific budget to deal with expenses related to flooding, but is able to dip into reserve funds to cover costs as needed. County finance director Marty Ferris said, despite the tightened budget, the county does have adequate reserve funds and can apply to the state for assistance if unexpectedly large dollar amounts are needed.
But Sheriff John Minor said if an emergency situation arises this spring, money won’t be an issue.
“We just have to do it,” Minor said. “If that means we have to call out people on overtime, then so be it. Bottom line, if our citizens need help we’re there to help and if it costs us some money, it costs us some money.”
Minor said the county’s three fire districts take a similar stance on the issue.
But, though county officials and emergency responders are working to be as prepared as possible, predicting water levels is an inexact science. The biggest factor determining how high the rivers and creeks in the county rise is the rate at which the snowpack at high elevations melts. A faster meltdown due to sustained warm temperatures will mean a greater risk of flooding.
Flood insurance plays an important role in individual flood preparedness, county emergency manager Joel Cochran said. The National Flood Insurance Program estimates that 6 inches of water could cause more than $20,000 in losses to a 1,000 square-foot house and nearly $40,000 to a 2,000 square-foot house, according to the website.
Flood insurance isn’t included through homeowners insurance policies, but can be purchased from independent agents through the federal flood insurance program. However, the process of getting insured can take time, so Cochran recommends getting started before the snow begins to melt.
“There is a 30-day waiting period,” Cochran said. “So if somebody was thinking about it, they’d need to do it a little bit out from flooding season.”
For more information on flood insurance visit http://www.floodsmart.gov.
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