Our View: Flood danger is real; be prepared | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Flood danger is real; be prepared

— It's typical for Routt County to receive late-spring snowfall. It's also typical for areas of the county to experience flooding issues during peak runoff.

But this spring and summer are shaping up to be anything but typical here in the Upper Yampa Valley, and residents need to be prepared. With mid- and upper-elevation snowpack at record levels and the weather forecast calling for continued precipitation and overnight lows below freezing for the next week, the likelihood of extensive flooding across the county later this spring continues to increase.

We've already seen what can result when the snowmelt begins in earnest. A rockslide has closed River Road near the Brooklyn neighborhood in downtown Steamboat since early last week. Roads across the county are being monitored daily for erosion and stability issues. A culvert along 13th Street in Steamboat was unable to handle runoff last week, and that led to the flooding of several businesses.

Local government agencies and officials have been meeting in earnest in recent weeks as the spring runoff scenarios begin to come into view. On Monday, Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble and Road and Bridge Department Director Paul Draper updated the county commissioners on their plans to keep roads passable and on how they'll provide aid to any rural residents who might be stranded by flooding near their properties.

The takeaway for all Routt County residents is this: Be prepared for the potential impact of flooding on your property and personal safety.

The updated 2011 High Water Preparedness Guide issued jointly by the county's municipalities is a good place to start. The free guide, available to download in PDF format at Routt County's website or with this editorial at SteamboatToday.com, includes numerous tips about preparing for an eventual emergency and what action to take should that arise. From how to fill and stack sandbags to keep floodwaters at bay, to putting together a grab-and-go kit for your home should you be forced to leave at a moment's notice, the High Water Preparedness Guide is comprehensive and easy to read.

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Among the tips:

■ Know if you live in a high-water risk area. Call your town or city government if you're not sure.

■ Buy flood insurance, if appropriate

■ Prepare emergency supply kits for your home, car and office

■ Keep important papers in waterproof containers and have a record of your valuables in a safe place to help with insurance claims

■ Watch for warning signs such as an increase in height and intensity of water flows, mudslides, debris in creeks, color changes in water and leaning trees

■ Teach your children about high water safety

■ Consider arrangements for your pets and livestock

■ Check on elderly or disabled neighbors to ensure they are aware of the situation

■ Prepare an evacuation plan from your home to a safe area

■ Never try to drive, walk or swim through high water. Two feet of water can carry away most cars.

Don't underestimate the chance that high runoff and flooding can affect you or your property. Many longtime Steamboat Springs residents recall Old Town flooding in 1974 and the wide-reaching impacts. Although it's not clear whether the pace of runoff will create similar conditions this year, the potential exists. And that should be enough for heightened awareness from everyone.

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