March 16 to 22 is Flood Safety Awareness Week
This year’s spring flood outlook for the Rockford and Delano areas has an element of suspense — at least for another month.
In its March outlook, the National Weather Service in LaCrosse said, “Much of the actual flood threat will be determined by the type of warm up and amount of precipitation received in the spring. Long range outlooks show a decent probability of continued cooler than normal temperatures over the area through April — with equal chances of above, normal or below normal precipitation.” The Weather Service promised to release another flood outlook in late April.
Meanwhile, on March 17, the Crow River was frozen and snow covered at Rockford and the water level was a whopping 2.15 feet. The Weather Service expected the river to rise steadily beginning around March 24 and peak around May 5 at a depth of about 10 feet, just below minor flood stage. At that depth, low lying areas and some areas along the river would begin to experience flooding. Local officials would be warned to take actions, such as sand bagging, at a water level of eight feet.
At Delano, the south fork of the Crow River on March 17 was at a winter water level of 5.29 feet, according to National Weather Service hydrologists. The predicted peak for the spring water level was approximately 16 feet around May 5. At that water level, water would be encroaching on Mill Avenue north of Watertown. Minor flood stage at Delano is 16.5 feet and action stage is 11.5 feet.
All of this uncertainty is happening in the middle of National Flood Safety Awareness Week, March 16 through 22, during which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Administration are highlighting the importance of preparing for a flood before it strikes. NOAA and FEMA also are providing information about actions people should take when faced with a flood or flash flood.
Especially appropriate for the Rockford area and the area south of Delano is the “Turn Around Don’t Drown Campaign.” In these areas, motorists might be tempted to drive through water sitting on highways along the Crow River, and pedestrians might be tempted to walk through what appears to be a shallow puddle. The message from the Turn Around campaign is, “Don’t do it.”
This year is the 10th anniversary of the Turn Around program. Hundreds of signs depicting the message have been erected at low water crossings during the past decade.
Flooding is the second leading cause of weather related fatalities in the U.S. (behind heat), according to NOAA. On average, flooding claims the lives of 89 people each year. Most of these deaths occur in motor vehicles when people attempt to drive through flooded roadways. Many other lives are lost when people walk into flood waters.
“This happens because people underestimate the force and power of water, especially when it is moving,” the NOAA website says. “The good news is most flooding deaths are preventable with the right knowledge.”
NOAA warns, “Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock over an adult. Only 18 inches of flowing water can carry away most vehicles, including large SUVs. It is impossible to tell the exact depth of water covering a roadway or the condition of the road below the water. This is especially true at night when your vision is more limited. It is never safe to drive or walk through flood waters.”
“Any time you come to a flooded road, walkway, or path, follow this simple rule, ‘Turn Around Don’t Drown,’” NOAA advises.
For more information on the Turn Around program, visit http://tadd.weather.gov. For flood safety tips, visit the website at floodsafety.noaa.gov.
About flooding in general, NOAA states, “Knowing your flood risk is the best way to prepare for flooding. Find out which flooding hazards impact you state at floodsafety.noaa.gov/map.shtml. You can also find out if you live in a flood plain by visiting our partners at FEMA at msc.fema.gov.” Many tips for what to do before, during and after a flood on the website at www.floodsafety.noaa.gov.
Find the latest forecasts and hazardous weather conditions at weather.gov and water.weather.gov. Forecasters in National Weather Service offices work around the clock to ensure watches, warnings and advisories are issued to alert the public to hazardous conditions. The same information is available on mobile devices at mobile.weather.gov. Some smart phones are able to receive Flash Flood Warning alerts via the Wireless Emergency Alerts system. Visit www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html for information.
Another tool to alert you to hazardous conditions is NOAA All Hazards Radio. This nationwide network of radio stations broadcasts continuous weather, river and other emergency information direct from NWS offices and emergency officials. For information, visit www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/
People with property in flood plains along the Crow River will want to look into flood insurance now rather than later. The deadline is approaching for obtaining insurance that would apply to a spring flood.
Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]