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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Red River flood responders share lessons learned with King County and area governments preparing for potential Green River Valley Flood

Summary

King County is hosting a delegation of emergency officials from Fargo, North Dakota, who are sharing lessons learned from their response to the historic flooding of the Red River last winter with local emergency managers and elected leaders.

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King County is hosting a delegation of emergency officials from Fargo, North Dakota, who are sharing lessons learned from their response to the historic flooding of the Red River last winter with local emergency managers and elected leaders.

Effective communication, collaboration between jurisdictions, early preparation and mobilization of thousands of volunteers were key elements of the Red River Flood response according to members of the delegation visiting King County this week.

King County and local jurisdictions are preparing now for potential flooding this winter due to concerns about the  abutment of the Howard Hanson Dam, an earthen dam operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has warned that it will not be able to hold back high levels of water because of concerns about sink holes that have opened in the right flank of the flood-storage facility.


The delegation representing Fargo and Cass County North Dakota includes the public health director, emergency managers and their volunteer coordinator.

Cass County, North Dakota Emergency Manager Dave Rogness stressed that the key to their success in battling the unprecedented floodwaters was the collaboration between representatives, equipment and resources from the county, state, Corps of Engineers, FEMA, the Coast Guard, U.S. Border Patrol and numerous other agencies, as well as the mobilization and coordination of 100,000 volunteers.

"The information they're providing has important lessons that we are already using to fine tune our planning efforts with all of the cities in the Green River Valley," said King County Executive Kurt Triplett. "One lesson from the Midwest is that it may be possible for us to protect a larger area than we think, particularly if we get the level of cooperation they did in North Dakota. So we're already reaching out to the state and other regional partners to see what staff and equipment resources might be available to help us manage widespread flooding. We're also preparing to coordinate large numbers of volunteers so that we can put them to the best use in an emergency. Coordination and collaboration across the region will be the key to getting through a flood event."

In fact, the visit this week underscores regional collaboration efforts that have been underway for some time.

"We have been working with all of the Green River Valley cities, the State Patrol and Metro Transit to establish evacuation routes for entire green river basin to make sure everyone knows where to go or not go, and reviewing existing sheltering and other plans to make sure they're consistent, with no gaps so that we can work together seamlessly in an emergency," said City of Tukwila Public Works Director and Emergency Manager Jim Morrow. "We as a region are in this together, so the best solutions are going to come from planning and preparing as a group."

Although the Howard Hanson Dam is not in imminent danger of failure, rainfall equal to that of last January would mean flooding throughout the Green River Valley including parts of Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila.

The Army Corps is working on interim measures on the dam that are expected to be in place by Nov. 1, 2009. Planning for a longer-term fix is also underway. Residents and businesses in the Green River Valley should prepare and plan now for the potential of widespread flooding. The county, city leaders and Army Corps urge residents in the valley to buy flood insurance and establish a family plan for an emergency.

More information, resources and links to community emergency management offices is available online at www.kingcounty.gov/floodplans.



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King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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