Flood preparedness plans for those living near waterways

Published: Aug. 16, 2017 at 8:16 PM AKDT
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In our third installment on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 flood, Amanda Brennan reports on flood preparedness.

Fifty years ago in Fairbanks, the amount of rain that fell in a seven day span was more than half of what normally falls for the entire year.

As a result, the Chena River overflowed into the city and beyond.

Citizens had to get to higher ground, or evacuate.

Mayor Jim Matherly's family escaped to Anchorage in such a hurry that his mother did not have time to put on her shoes.

Matherly was almost five years old at the time.

In response to the flood, the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project was put into effect.

Although the concrete architectural feat has protected the city since it became operational in 1981, there are still conditions that are conducive to flooding.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service, Ed Plum, discusses the conditions and locations that would still cause flooding given the right conditions.

"We had a big rain event that was really focused on the Little Chena basin, that is downstream from the Flood Control Project. We could control the water on the Chena, but if there was a large volume on the Little Chena, that is not a controlled river basin, so it is possible to have high water come into town. If we had a large event focused primarily on the Little Chena basin. There was an event in 2008 that the Tanana received a lot of rainfall, the Chena didn't receive as much rain, but the Tanana was very high and so at the mouth of the Chena where it flows into the Tanana, that water was backing up into the lower part of the Chena off Chena Pump Road and down by the airport."

For those who live downstream from the flood control project, one precaution that people can take to better prepare themselves is to create a Flood Preparedness Plan.

Preparedness Specialist for the Red Cross of Alaska, Sam Johnson gives advice on what to include in the plan.

"As you are developing your Flood Preparedness Plan there are two things you should know the difference between: a Flood Watch, and a Flood Warning. A Flood Watch means there is a possibility of flooding in your area, a Flood Warning means there is already flooding occurring, or there will be flooding soon. Additionally, know the difference between a flood and a flash flood, listen to your local radio or TV station for latest information and updates, be prepared to evacuate quickly and know your routes and destinations, and be sure to check your emergency kit and replenish any items that are missing or are in short supply and make sure it is close by."

For more emergency preparedness tips, go to the Division of Public Health page on the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services website:

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