With record temperatures sweeping the region, it’s hard to imagine winter is just around the corner. Many of us are spending our time enjoying the nice weather, making our Labor Day plans, and thinking about getting ready for the start of the school year.
Summer months, however, are also the time to start preparing for winter and the harsh weather conditions up ahead, including the possibility of flooding. Planning for extremely harsh winter conditions takes time and preparation.
That’s why it’s important you know about possible flooding in the Green River Valley this winter. You need information about how King County and other governments are working to protect you and the steps you can take to prepare.
Every resident of King County is affected by flooding, as many of us work, live or commute in floodplains. I serve as Chair of the King County Flood District, a special purpose government created to provide funding and policy oversight for levee repairs and flood protection. In my role as Chair, I work with the District’s board to provide a proactive, regional approach to flooding. We also make the decisions necessary to fund and improve the county’s nearly 500 aging flood protection facilities that span 120 miles.
I also work to make sure that you have the information you need to keep you and your property safe from flooding.
This winter there is a serious heightened risk of flooding in the Green River Valley. After record high rain last winter, it was discovered that water is seeping more rapidly through an earthen bank next to the Howard Hanson Dam, which controls the flow of the Green River. Until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can make repairs, they will limit the amount of water the dam will store. The Corp claims that the amount of water stored behind the dam must be limited in order to ensure the entire structure does not fail.
The restricted storage means if heavy and prolonged rain occurs, flooding could happen throughout the Green River Valley. Residents, businesses and farms below the Howard Hanson Dam that don’t typically see flooding –including parts of Renton–could be inundated by several feet of water.
As your King County Councilmember and Chair of the Flood Control District, I strongly encourage you to plan for the higher risk of flooding if you live in the Green River Valley.
Below are the steps I recommend you take now:
• Make an emergency plan and assemble an emergency kit. You can find information about this at http://www.govlink.org/3days3ways/.
• Buy flood insurance now, as it takes 30 days for a policy to take effect. You can purchase flood insurance from most insurance companies.
• Purchase an inexpensive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio for urgent weather alerts day and night, available at many retail outlets and through the Internet.
• Sign up for flooding updates and other emergencies at www.rpin.org.
During the winter months, make sure to:
• Watch area news media for information if severe weather is predicted.
• Monitor local road conditions and obey closure signs.
• Be ready to take medications and supplies with you in case you are evacuated.
• Be prepared to relocate animals and livestock out of harm’s way.
Minimize flood damage by storing valuables, vehicles, and chemicals above possible flood levels; ensure your underground storage tanks are sealed and secure; learn how to use sandbags and locate where you can get them ahead of time; and keep storm drains free of leaves and other debris.
King County and the King County Flood Control District are also doing everything possible to coordinate with valley cities, including Renton, to protect you and your property. For example, you will get as much as seven hours earlier notice of rising water levels in the Green River.
If serious flooding is predicted in your community, you could be asked to evacuate. Key transportation routes may be under water and transit service disrupted. Power outages and sewage back-ups are possible even outside the immediate flood zone. King County and Green River Valley are developing evacuation routes that will be widely distributed and posted on the Green River Flood Safety Web site at www.kingcounty.gov/floodplans.
King County and the King County Flood Control District will co-host, in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers, a public meeting about Green River flood safety. The meeting will take place September 9 at 6 p.m. at Green River Community College in Auburn. I encourage you to attend.
Planning now will help make you more prepared for the months ahead. Small steps taken today can help protect your family and property for possible flooding ahead.
Julia Patterson of SeaTac represents the King County Council’s Fifth District, which includes part of Renton.