As residents and local officials in communities across the state prepare for the possibility of spring flooding, state and federal emergency management officials are gearing up for what could be another round of severe flooding in Colorado.
In the past weeks, officials have stepped up preparedness measures in anticipation of a potentially busy season, given high snowpack in parts of the state and the prospect of runoff and storms through areas still vulnerable from last September’s floods.
“Colorado residents are reminded to take steps to be prepared and heed the advice of their local officials in the event of an emergency,” Kevin Klein, Director Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) said. “Visit ReadyColorado.com for helpful information on how to be prepared for floods and other hazards.”
The Colorado DHSEM and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) regional headquarters are working closely with the flood recovery teams at the disaster Joint Field Office in Centennial to ensure that all partners are prepared. Among preparedness actions taken, state and/or federal officials have:
· Created an interactive hazard map on READYColorado.com for Colorado community members to learn more about hazards in their area and what to do before, during or after a disaster hits.
· DHSEM hosted a spring runoff forum for emergency responders.
· Conducted a state-federal exercise at the Joint Disaster Field Office on April 18 to review the current flood outlook, discuss interagency coordination and anticipate potential issues and response operations in advance of spring flooding.
· Released new floodplain delineations based on post-flood LiDAR aerial surveys to show potential impacts from flood waters, including impact assessments of structures located within the 100-year floodplain.
· Increased engagement of Debris Task Force Teams using topographical data to compare pre- and post-flood surveys in order to identify potential flooding hazards.
· Coordinated with community and county officials to fund the removal of hazards from more than 100 streams in Boulder, El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties, unblocking key waterways. These efforts are ongoing.
· Developed strategic plans and staffing patterns in order to transition current recovery operations into a new flood response, if needed.
· Developed plans to conduct Preliminary Damage Assessments so teams can move quickly into the field to conduct ground surveys, if needed.
· Increased monitoring of weather conditions in coordination with the National Weather Service (NWS), including a Potential High Water Conference with the state and NWS to consider flood risk in northwest Colorado – an area not affected by last September’s flood, but which could experience flooding this spring. Also, the State has completed a system of emergency alerts and safety protocols when flash flooding threatens the area of Hwy. 24, in coordination with NWS.
· Expanded outreach to local communities to provide spring flood mitigation information and the benefits of purchasing and maintaining flood insurance.
· Developed a State-FEMA Situational Awareness Team and reviewed coordination plans for State-FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams.
“FEMA has been working in coordination with our state and federal partners to ensure all are ready to respond in the event that Colorado is hit with another round of severe flooding,” FEMA’s Acting Regional Administrator Tony Russell said. “We have an experienced team that is ready to hit the ground running if needed.”