Flood danger again on the rise; are you prepared?

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NORTHERN UTAH -- Flood danger will surge this weekend in Utah. State leaders and flooding experts warn everyone to prepare, rather than panic.

"Things are going to rage this year. They are going to go very, very big," said National Weather Service Hydrologist Brian McInerney. "If you fall in or have a little kid fall into any one of these swollen streams, you've got to get them out."

McInerney was one of several people Gov. Gary Herbert brought together Friday afternoon for a press conference to alert the public about the flooding potential.

"We need to be prepared for acute flooding that's going to happen in the next few days," said Herbert.

The hydrologist said the warm weather is currently melting low-elevation snowpack at a rate of two inches a day. Many waterways are rising statewide, especially in the north. If a Sunday storm delivers another one to two inches, McInerney said flooding will happen, and you should have a plan.


Nearly three weeks ago, Utahns in several northern communities fought back the first wave of spring flooding -- but that was just the opening act. Rivers that already flooded may overflow again: the Weber River, Chalk Creek, Emigration Creek and the rivers in Cache County. Small creeks without gauges are also at high risk.

Over the next four to six weeks, snow will continue to melt higher and higher in the mountains. That water alone may flood rivers, and whenever rain adds to that volume, flood danger will intensify.

"We've got double the snow, double the water volume that's coming out of the mountains, and it's expected to come out in half of the time," McInerney said, referring to the fact that the snow usually starts to melt off in April, rather than the beginning of May.

"Flooding can happen without a lot of notice," said Herbert, so it's important to be vigilant.

Herbert, joined Friday by other officials at the state's Emergency Operations Center, outlined a number of tips and strategies for preparing for flooding and other emergencies.

A state program, Be Ready Utah posts updates on its website and via Twitter. In addition, it offers a downloadable document providing a host of tips designed to help residents recognize dangers and minimize risk of injury or death due to floods.

Emergency Kits

Ryan Longman, program manager of Be Ready Utah, said it was created after the 2005 floods. He noted the value of keeping up to date with information via social media, pointing out that Herriman City used a blog, its Facebook page and Twitter account to alert residents of the fire at Camp Williams started by a training exercise.

Another program, Utahemergencyinfo.com, was touted at the Friday event as a way for residents to get updated information regarding flooding threats. It, too, has a Facebook and Twitter account. Another way to get information for non-computer users is to call 2-1-1.

Some of the main preparedness points the governor stressed: If flooding occurs, keep children away from the water. Turn on the news or go online for the latest information. Have a plan of action, whether its sandbagging or evacuation. Have a 72-hour kit.

"We don't have the power in government or the private sector to withstand Mother Nature, but we can prepare for Mother Nature," Herbert said.

In addition to the flooding tips outlined at Friday's conference, the U.S. Geological Survey has a nine-month-old program called Water Alert.

Cory Angeroth, hydrologist/chief in the agency's Utah Water Science Center, said about 20,000 subscribers have signed on nationwide to receive hourly or daily alerts via texts or email about streamflow thresholds.

The survey monitors flows in real time at a network of gauges established and maintained by the agency. Through the program, subscribers can set parameters on particular waterways of interest and be notified should conditions meet or surpass the threshold. The program will help relay critical information to the state's water managers tasked with balancing reservoir levels against already swollen rivers downstream.

Residents who live along creeks, streams or rivers can subscribe to the free service, which is also available to fishing enthusiasts or river runners who want to know stream flows.

For more tips on what to do in flooding, see the links and resources on this page.


Story written by Jed Boal and Amy Joi O'Donoghue.

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