Wenatchee, WA (October 9, 2012) – The recent wildfires on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest changed the watersheds within the burned areas and increased the potential for flooding and mudflows that could impact several communities, homes, and other infrastructures adjacent to and downstream from the National Forest.
Although flooding can be a frequent occurrence after a wildfire, the extent of the effects of the recent wildfires on the watersheds needs to be determined and analyzed.
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Supervisor Becki Heath assembled a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team to assess the condition of the areas that burned in the recent wildfires.
One of the most effective BAER strategies is interagency coordination with local cooperators who assist affected businesses, homes, and landowners prepare for rain events. The Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) work together and coordinate with local agencies and counties that assist landowners in preparing for potential run-off.
Federal assistance to private landowners is the primary responsibility of the NRCS through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program (http://www.wa.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp.html). This week NRCS will be conducting damage survey reports for the private land adjacent and downstream from the burned areas. NRCS will utilize these reports to develop emergency measures to reduce the impacts from potential increased water and mud flows. Chelan County is sponsoring an EWP grant and will be working with the NRCS to assist private landowners with the damage survey reports and recommended emergency measures (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1045263.pdf).
Multiple agencies are working with the BAER team and looking at the full scope and scale of the situation to reduce the potential threats to life and property; however, BAER treatments cannot prevent all of the potential flooding or soil erosion impacts, especially after wildfires change the landscape. It is important that residents take steps to protect themselves and their property from flooding and mudflows:
§ For their safety, communities need to monitor local weather reports and public safety bulletins, local road closures, emergency notifications, weather alerts, follow local county and city advisories, and act accordingly.
§ Use a “weather radio” or smart phone “weather app” that monitors “all hazards” alerts issued by the NOAA-National Weather Service (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/).
§ Prepare for rainstorms by being prepared to evacuate if emergency county or city officials determine that flooding and mudflows are expected which could pose an increased threat to life and property.
§ Know and be alert to environmental signs of dangerous weather conditions and be prepared to take action that can save lives.
§ Understand that all canyons along the Cascade Range and those associated within the burned areas can produce flooding.
§ If you find yourself in a flood, climb to safety (seek higher ground).
Additional Resources for Preparing for Flood-Mudflows and Interagency Cooperator Information: The State of Washington - Department of Ecology coordinates its Flood Plain Management program with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local governments to address statewide flood hazard challenges and provides grants and technical assistance to local communities to reduce impacts to life and property, and protect environmental functions of flood hazard areas (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/floods/index.html).
The State of Washington - Department of Health provides information about how the public can prepare and what to do afterwards for floods, landslides, and mudflows:
§ http://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/EmergencyPreparednessandResponse/Factsheets/Floods.aspx; and
The Emergency Management Division of the Washington State Military Department provides information about floods and landslides:
§ http://www.emd.wa.gov/preparedness/prep_floodsafe.shtml; and
The USDI Geological Survey (USGS) provides “water watch” internet tools and flood information for the State of Washington:
§ http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/?state=wa&map_&web_; and
The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office – Department of Emergency Services provides community preparedness information for a variety of topics: http://chelandem.org/preparedness.htm.
The NRCS is coordinating a workshop with Washington State University that will be held before the end of October that will give private landowners and business owners more information regarding what actions they can take to protect themselves and their property. Additional information for that workshop will be shared with the public when the date and location is determined.
Central Washington BAER Team information is available at http://inciweb.org/incident/3292/.
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