Colorado Counties Prepare as Risk for Flooding Rises with Record Snowpack
In Hinsdale County volunteers are being asked to help fill sandbags, as the town of Lake City prepares for possible floods due to snowfall and previous avalanches. The preparation has been called almost unprecedented, but with snowpack at 60 to 180 percent of the annual average, the county needed to prepare.
In our part of Western Colorado, flooding isn’t imminent, but we’re nearing the date when the rivers usually crest and could spill over their banks. The National Weather Service tells us that the crest date for the Colorado River can vary significantly from year to year, but it generally reaches it’s peak anywhere from the middle of May to the middle of June.
In our desert climate, water safety and flooding concerns don’t seem as urgent as Wildfire or other disasters, but the reality is Mesa County could experience flooding – and we do in the form of flash floods from time to time.
Flash floods can develop quickly and it doesn’t take a lot of water to create one. As little as 6-inches of rapidly moving water can knock a person down.
PROTECTING YOUR HOME
If there was significant flooding a unique challenge in Western Colorado is that many homes use on-site wastewater treatment systems, also known as septic systems. In a flood, these systems can overload and cause backups. If you have a septic system, keep stormwater runoff away from your septic tank and drain field area as much as possible.
Water quality, even to homes that are not on septic systems can also be impacted. You may notice the water is more ‘murky’ or not as clear. It might also have a smell. Mesa County Public Health’s water quality program provides bacterial testing for drinking water and irrigation water samples from our regional lab. You can find more information on how to have your water tested here.
The best way to minimize harm and damage to property is to be prepared. Have a 72-hour kit with food, water, and essentials in a waterproof container ready to go. Copy important documents and have them in your kit, too.
Other things that should be in your 72-hour kid are:
- drinking water
- non-perishable food
- first aid
- chargers for electronic devices
Download this Emergency Supply List from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help you pack that kit.
IT HAS HAPPENED HERE
The Front Range Flood in September of 2013 spread across 200 miles, impacting 17 counties. At least 8 deaths were reported by the Colorado Office of Emergency Management. A minimum of 1,750 people and 300 pets had to be rescued by air and on the ground.
Nearly 19,000 homes were damaged and more than 1,500 were destroyed.
TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN
If you encounter flood water while in your vehicle don’t drive or walk through it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than half of flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. Many people underestimate the power this water can carry. The ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown campaign is an effort to educate people on the strong currents and hazards rising and fast-moving water can bring.
For more information, visit health.mesacounty.us.