Pierce County Web site offers flood management info

With meteorologists predicting a colder and wetter winter than usual, Pierce County agencies are urging residents to be prepared in the event of a flooding emergency.

Pierce County Public Works and Utilities recently compiled links to local flood resources and prevention efforts in one place — http://www.piercecountywa.org/flood . The new Web site offers the ability to check flooding conditions for the Puyallup, Carbon, White and Nisqually rivers; learn about the Rivers Flood Hazard Management Plan that’s being developed to reduce the risks to public safety, minimize damage to public and private property, reduce river maintenance costs and maintain or improve habitat conditions; access resources to prepare before, during and after a flood; find out more about the new Flood Control Zone District, which was established this year to maintain and operate flood control infrastructure; and sign up to receive emergency messages via land line, cell phone, e-mail or text message from Pierce County ALERT, the new mass notification system operated by the Department of Emergency Management.

The launch of the new site coincided with the mailing of the annual Flood Bulletin to residents who live or own property in or near flood hazard areas. The bulletin, produced by the department’s Surface Water Management division, is also available on the flooding Web site, or people can call (253) 798-2725 or e-mail pcwater@co.pierce.wa.us to get a copy or obtain a free flood hazard map for their property (or any parcel).

“Flooding is the most common natural hazard in Pierce County, and poses a significant threat to residents, property and the local economy,” said Executive Pat McCarthy. “County agencies are working hard to make sure the people we serve have easy access to information that helps them be prepared.”

Flood season in Pierce County generally lasts from October through March and is caused by heavy rains, snow melt in the mountains and changing river systems. Even if a property has not flooded in the past, it could still be vulnerable. Just six inches of moving flood water can knock an adult down, and as little as two feet can carry a car away. When flooding occurs, the Surface Water Management division and the Department of Emergency Management work around the clock to ensure residents’ safety. The two agencies monitor data, and if waters rise to potentially threatening levels, they dispatch staff and River Watch volunteers. They report flood problems back to Emergency Management, which then determines the necessary response. To help maintain aging flood prevention infrastructure and provide better flood mitigation, the Pierce County Council passed an ordinance in May 2010 that establishes a countywide Flood Control Zone District (FCZD). The FCZD is a special purpose taxing district that can only be used for flood prevention.