Cities urge preparation for winter weather

STANWOOD — Winter’s on the way, and local cities are bracing for flooding and other seasonal facts of life in Snohomish County.

Historically, floods most often happen here in November and December, and snow is in the forecast for Monday. Officials are asking folks to be prepared either way.

“We’re getting ready,” said Stanwood city administrator Deborah Knight.

In recent weeks, the county Department of Emegency Management worked with cities to get tens of thousands of sandbags stockpiled in key locations, said Randy Fay, the logistics section chief.

Stanwood has equipment ready to go, Knight said. If flooding is expected, city officials ask people not to park at the park-and-ride off Marine Drive. Other nearby lots are a safer bet, she said.

People in Stanwood can check for updates at the city’s website, www.ci.stanwood.wa.us, and by signing up for the city’s electronic “Nixle” alerts or at the Stanwood Police Department Facebook page.

The situation is similar in Arlington, which also uses Facebook and Twitter to get weather information out to the community.

“It’s that time of the year,” city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate to have a long stretch of dry weather but when it rains, we will see those rivers go up for sure.”

Arlington public works crews have spent the past month sweeping fallen leaves off of streets and out of storm drains, Banfield said. Some low-lying areas in town already are getting muddy — meaning the ground is saturated with water.

Drivers need to stay out of floodwaters and obey road closures, Banfield said. Every year, there is a water rescue or two in town for people who don’t heed the warnings. Police officers will be enforcing the rules.

“Stagnant water like that can do a lot of damage to your vehicle, and it can be a lot deeper than you realize,” Banfield said.

Meanwhile, the county emergency-management team has frequent briefings with the National Weather Service, said director John Pennington. The region is in a “La Nada” weather cycle — meaning forecasters don’t know whether we’ll see extreme weather or something far less. That’s in contrast to the more typical warm “El Nino” and colder “La Nina” weather cycles.

People need to plan ahead for who they’ll have to care for during an emergency — including pets, neighbors and older relatives, he said.

The county and the city of Everett share tips at www.whodependsonyou.com.

County officials also have the ability to call landlines and most cellphones to warn of potential flooding. This year, they plan to call three or four days in advance when possible, Pennington said. They hope the warnings will reduce emergency rescues and evacuations if conditions worsen. People can sign up for alerts at the county’s website, snoco.org, under “Emergency Management” under “Departments.”

The county also will push out information through Facebook at “SnoCoDEM” and at twitter.com/SnoCo_DEM.

People in low-lying areas should try to assign two escape routes from their neighborhood, said Monroe fire Capt. Jeff Zornes. If the water is rising, it’s never a bad idea to get the livestock trailer hooked up in case, he said.

“Rivers go a long way from their original banks during flood season,” he said.

Even normally dry sloughs and small streams can become raging torrents in a flood, he said.

“During flood periods, that becomes part of the main river subchannels,” he said. “It’ll be flowing through there at thousands of cubic feet per minute.”

Granite Falls will keep sand and sandbags available for pickup behind the library, said city public works director Brent Kirk. He suggests people plan on taking alternative routes around the usual flooding trouble spots.

The city of Sultan will post flood information on ci.sultan.wa.us/weather-emergency-information.

People who live in Sultan city limits also should know that the local FEMA flood-insurance rating has changed, and they can receive a 20 percent discount on their home flood insurance, said city permit assistant Cyd Donk. People affected should contact their insurance agent for more information.

Sultan also sent out an annual flood information bulletin with November’s utility bills, Donk said. Additional copies are available at City Hall at Fourth and Main streets.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Be prepared

•Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

•Head for higher ground if a flood warning is issued for your area.

•Turn back if floodwaters become ankle-deep.

•Don’t drive on flooded roads. Most cars can be swept away in less than two feet of water.

•Be especially careful at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.

•Keep three days of water and food available, along with a flashlight, battery-powered radio with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, cellphone with spare batteries, family and emergency contact information, a blanket and medications.

•Before returning to a flooded home, look for loose power lines, damaged gas lines and cracks to the foundation.

•If power lines are down, don’t step in puddles or standing water.

•During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and boots.

Numbers

•425-388-3653: Flood warning information for Skykomish, Snoqualmie and Snohomish rivers

•425-388-3702: Flood warning information for Stillaguamish River

•425-388-7500: Road conditions and closures

•425-388-5088: Non-emergency requests for assistance and volunteer to help with sandbags

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