BLACKFOOT, Idaho – A four-member U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emergency management flood-fight team from the Walla Walla District deployed to Blackfoot, Idaho, today to provide technical assistance to Bingham County emergency managers as they prepare for seasonal flows to peak in the Snake River.
Flood Fight Team Leader, A. Simeon Francis, a civil engineer and project manager at the District Headquarters in Walla Walla, Wash. (hometown = Walla Walla, Wash.); along with trained flood fight specialists Brad Clarke, an engineering equipment operator leader at Lower Granite Lock and Dam near Pomeroy, Wash. (hometown = Clarkston, Wash.); Pasquale Anolfo, a natural resource specialist at McNary Lock and Dam near Umatilla, Ore. (hometown = Echo, Ore.); and Ben Wolfram, a contract specialist at the District Headquarters in Walla Walla (hometown = Walla Walla, Wash.), departed Walla Walla at about noon today. They will meet with Bingham County emergency management officials tomorrow to provide technical assistance in support of local flood response operations.
Seasonal snowmelt and rain have caused high flows in the upper Snake River and its tributaries. While the river is still within its banks at Blackfoot, some minor flooding has occurred in low-lying areas near and in the city. Flows measured at Blackfoot were 20,600 cubic feet per second (cfs) at about 11 a.m. today and are forecasted to peak on Sunday at 27,500 cfs, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a flood warning today including the Blackfoot area. The NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website for the “Snake River at Blackfoot” gauge http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=pih&gage=snai1&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1" provides forecasts and river flow information for that location.
Last week, Walla Walla District staff visited several flood-threatened areas of the upper Snake River Basin, including areas along the river in Bingham County, to assess the situation and provide initial technical assistance.
Corps emergency management officials coordinated with the Seattle District to preposition 100,000 sandbags in Bingham County to minimize delivery delays should they become necessary to assist with flood response operations in the upper Snake River Basin. Those sandbags are scheduled to arrive in Blackfoot tomorrow.
Residents of flood-prone areas are encouraged to keep informed of changing river and weather conditions on the National Weather Service website at http://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php – which includes flows data, weather forecasts and flood alerts – and by tuning in to local radio and television news stations.
The Corps’ Walla Walla District continues to coordinate with state and local emergency management agencies. During the week of May 8, the Corps prepositioned more than 50,000 sand bags in Payette and Gem Counties, as well as the City of Horseshoe Bend. Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, and county and city emergency management agencies are taking additional precautions.
Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security http://www.bhs.idaho.gov encourages Idaho residents to be prepared to respond to localized flooding. Individuals are encouraged to contact local emergency management agencies to ensure they understand how to receive updates and information specific to their location. Most county emergency management departments in Idaho have flood-preparedness information on their websites. Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security has an alert system that, based on zip code, will send alerts to whatever device residents choose – sign up at https://mystateusa.com/alertSignup.aspx?region=670.
Early forecasts indicate that this will be one of the top five years on record. Snake River Basin water volumes are forecasted to be similar to 1997.
Corps water management officials continue coordinating with other federal and non-federal dam managers to make adjustments in river system operations that will best accommodate the increased run-off inflows. Reservoirs are being drafted ahead of anticipated heavy spring runoff. The Corps works closely with other agencies and local government entities to notify the public as early as possible when changes to flows are necessary.
The Corps is authorized to work with states, counties and other public entities to provide necessary resources and information. The Corps does not have authority to provide disaster assistance directly to individuals. The organization will continue to carefully watch the evolving situation and respond, when requested, with whatever assistance is authorized, appropriate and available.
The first responsibility for protecting homes and property from flood damage rests with the individual. Local governments and agencies, such as flood control districts, may share in this responsibility, and together form a community's first line of defense in preventing flood damages.
Occasionally, however, local resources are not able to control or contain a flood emergency situation. The Corps’ flood disaster assistance program is intended to supplement and assist local governments, institutions and special-purpose districts when more help is needed.
The Walla Walla District is prepared to assist states and municipalities with flood-management support, if requested, said Jeff Stidham, Walla Walla District emergency management specialist. That assistance could include technical expertise, supplies and materials, equipment or contracts for emergency flood-fighting work.
“We're watching rivers and streams throughout the Walla Walla District and staying in touch with local emergency officials so, if requested to, we can plan, prepare or act,” said Stidham. “Our top priority is the public’s safety, so we’re encouraging folks in low-lying parts of flood-prone areas stayed tuned to information and advisories provided by the National Weather Service or their local emergency-service agencies and be ready to take action according to local flood response plans.”
State and local agencies needing disaster assistance from the Corps should contact the Walla Walla District Emergency Management Office at (509) 527-7146, or (509) 380-4538.
For more information about Emergency Management Assistance, check out the District’s Web site at www.nww.usace.army.mil/html/offices/op/em/flodasst.htm or call (509) 527-7145.