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King County ready for flood response during pandemic; Leaders urge preparedness for possible active flood season

Summary

Following an active and destructive 2019-2020 flood season, the King County Executive and King County Flood Control District Chair urge residents to prepare now for seasonal flooding, announcing October as Flood Awareness Month.

Story

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Kingfcd_color_logo County Flood District Chair Dave Upthegrove urge people who live, work or commute in flood-prone areas to prepare now for what could be a second consecutive active flood season. 

Announcing that October is “Flood Awareness Month” in King County, officials note that weather experts are calling for a “La Nina” long-term weather pattern, with above-normal rainfall this fall and winter that could result in frequent flooding. The call to prepare is especially important at a time when residents are also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With images of submerged roadways and homes isolated and surrounded by rising floodwaters still in mind from just eight months ago and with many people distracted by a global pandemic, we urge everyone in harm’s way to prepare now for seasonal flooding – including updating their emergency supplies, signing up for flood alerts, and knowing alternate routes to and from home if flooding occurs,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

“We have seen how dangerous seasonal flooding can be in our community so now is the time for King County residents to prepare for the upcoming flood season,” said King County Flood Control District Chair Dave Upthegrove. “The Flood Control District and King County are working together to keep everyone well informed about how to protect their home, business, or property from flood damage.” 

Storms in January and February 2020 led to extensive flooding along virtually all King County rivers. Issaquah Creek and the Cedar River systems were particularly hard hit, including with emergency evacuations and road closures by floodwaters. 

The flood impacts were significant enough to warrant a federal disaster declaration – the 13th flood-related emergency declaration since 1990. 

The King County’s Flood Warning Program evolved over 60 years and this year’s operations have been adjusted as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the program’s operations are able to take place remotely now, which helps ensure workers remain safe while providing the same high level of service to people who are potentially in harm’s way.

King County offers several ways to help people prepare for possible flooding, including sending flood alerts, operating its Flood Warning Center around the clock when flooding occurs, and offering sandbags that help protect homes and other property from floodwaters.

To prepare for a flood emergency, families can assemble a basic emergency preparedness kit for the home, with items such as a flashlight with spare batteries, a portable radio, non-perishable food, drinking water, medical necessities, and any necessary items for children or pets.

Through funding provided by the King County Flood Control District, King County developed KC Flood Alerts - a free, automated system offering subscribers access to alerts of potential flooding for any or all of King County’s six major river systems.

Immediate notifications about pending high water are sent via email, text message, or voicemail.

Sign up for KC Flood Alerts at kingcounty.gov/flood, where detailed flood preparedness information is available, including real-time river levels and road conditions, plus weather reports and more.

King County also issues flood-related notifications and other emergency information via ALERT King County, a regional emergency information and notification system. Learn more at kingcounty.gov/alert.

Important steps to take before flooding occurs include: 

Buy flood insurance. It takes 30 days for a policy to take effect, and standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. Contact your insurance agent or visit floodsmart.gov.
Avoid flood damage by storing important documents, valuables and electronics high up, and by moving vehicles and equipment to high ground before flood waters rise.
Dispose of hazardous chemicals, such as lawn and gardening herbicides, at one of the county’s household hazardous waste sites to help reduce harmful contaminates in flood waters. Learn more at kingcounty.gov/hazwaste.
Clear storm drains and gutters of fallen leaves to prevent flooding and protect streams.

When flooding is imminent, King County employees will analyze and distribute flood warning information so that residents, businesses, property owners and emergency response officials can make important health, safety and economic decisions. 

When river levels rise to designated thresholds, King County activates its Flood Warning Center around-the-clock to monitor river gages, weather data, dam operations and road closures. During a flood, trained County employees will take to the field to address safety concerns, such as flooded roadways, and to check on river facilities.

When the Flood Warning Center is open, residents can directly contact King County staff 24 hours a day with their flooding concerns and questions by calling 206-296-8200 or 1-800-945-9263. 

For assistance with, or questions about, flooding on smaller streams or drainage problems in urban areas, call 206-477-4811 during business hours or 206-296-8100 after hours or on weekends. 

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The King County Flood Control District is a special purpose government created to provide funding and policy oversight for flood protection projects and programs in King County. The Flood Control District’s Board is composed of the members of the King County Council. The Water and Land Resources Division of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks develops and implements the approved flood protection projects and programs. Information is available at kingcountyfloodcontrol.org/.

RELEVANT LINKS
King County Flood Warnings and Alerts
ALERT King County
King County Flood Control District
FloodSmart – flood insurance
Household Hazardous Waste Disposal

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Daniel DeMay, King County Flood Control District, 206-265-9197
Logan Harris, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-477-4516