Planning can mitigate many flood hazards

Posted: Monday, February 06, 2006

Many of us on the Kenai Peninsula are a little more familiar with flooding than we’d like to be, as a great deal of the peninsula is designated as “flood plain.” This is no big surprise to many of you who have experienced the power of runaway water more than once. I think Noah and his ark would have been right at home here.

Flooding is a year-round concern for the peninsula, and whether you’re new to the area or you’ve weathered your share of soggy times, there are a few points we should all consider.

· Know the land you live and play on — find out if you’re in a flood zone. If you live in Seldovia or outside city limits anywhere on the peninsula, call Jane Gabler at the Kenai River Center at 260-4882, in Homer call 235-3106 or in Seward call 224-4048.

· Reduce your risks — raising your furnace, water heater and electrical panel will reduce your risk of flood damage. Also, fuel tanks may tip or float during a flood if you have one, be sure it is anchored securely and that vents and fill line openings are above projected flood levels (you must get permission from the propane company to anchor a propane tank).

If your area is frequently flooded, you may want to consider putting aside some emergency building materials such as lumber, shovels, sandbags and plastic sheeting. Have check valves installed in your sewer traps to keep flood waters from backing up in sewer drains. In an emergency, plug the drains in your showers, tubs or sink basins with large corks or stoppers.

Make a plan and store supplies. You should plan the best evacuation routes from your home. Be aware that bridges and roads are sometimes inaccessible or even completely gone in a flood. Fill containers or even the tub and sinks with clean water as soon as you hear of a flood watch, in case water becomes contaminated. Have disaster supplies on hand in your family disaster kit: flashlights with extra batteries, a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, emergency food and water, important prescription medicine, cash and credit cards, extra shoes and clothing.

Be informed. You can learn the history of flooding in your area by calling the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s (KPB) Office of Emergency Management at 262-4910 or by looking in the flood section of the KPB All Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is available online at

Learn the difference between a flood advisory, flood watch and a flood warning. If there is a flood advisory, stay tuned to local radio for more information. If a flood watch is issued, move important belongings to higher levels in your home and fill your car’s gas tank in case you need to evacuate. If a flood warning is issued, stay tuned to local radio for more information and listen for the call to evacuate.

Other things to think about during a flood include contaminated wells, landslides and mud flows. If you have a well, have your water quality checked after a flood before you use it. Warning signs of landslides or mud flows include doors or windows that stick for the first time; new cracks in walls, tiles, brick or foundations; bulging ground that appears at the base of a slope, tilting fences, utility poles or trees; a faint rumbling sound that grows louder; and water that breaks through to the ground’s surface in new locations.

No one wants to go through a flood, but a little knowledge and preparation will help to keep everyone safe and the damage to a minimum.

Kimberly Lorentzen is the former Citizen Corps Program Coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management (262-4910) and a current member of the Kenai Peninsula Citizen Corps Council.

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