Event Summary: Bigfork Prepares for 2011 Flooding (042111)

by Catherine Haug, April 22, 2011

With mountain snowpack estimated as at least 150% of normal, county and emergency services predict both the Flathead and Swan Rivers and their tributaries will experience flooding this year. Members of the greater Bigfork community met Thursday April 21 to learn more about potential impacts and what we can/should do to prepare.

Additionally, a meeting on how to prepare a 72-hour food pack for $20 is planned for  Tuesday April 26, 2011, 6 PM, Bigfork High School Music Room.

Here’s a summary of the April 21 session.

The meeting began with an introduction by Cheryl Richmond. This was followed by several presenters.

Be Ready

Cindy Mullaney, Deputy Director, Flathead County Office of Emergency Services was the first to speak. She led us through many of the handouts and pamphlets provided on flood preparation, mainly focusing on the “3 Actions you should take to be prepared in emergencies” provided by the American Red Cross (see also Are You Ready? (brochure) and Be Red Cross Ready for more links).

These 3 Actions are:

  1. Get a Kit
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Be Informed

Cindy stressed that we should call 911 if we need Red Cross help. And we should have a local contact and an out-of-state contact, for friends and family to keep informed if we are negatively impacted by the flood.

Sand bag training will be provided for volunteers. Sand bags provided by the county (via community churches) are mainly for roads and bridges.It was not clear to me how or where individuals who need sandbags to protect their property can obtain them.

No aquadams will be available.

Other brochures and information provided include:

Army Corps of Engineers

“Charlie” from Libby Dam, spoke next, after a question concerning Kerr Dam control came up. Kerr takes its direction from the Corps.

He also addressed emergency issues. The corps:

  • Provides flood and sandbag fill training, especially for children;
  • Provides more sandbags for the requesting county to distribute;
  • Provides help when road crews and communities need help;
  • Can hire contractors to assist road crews and communities needing help.

He discussed the National Flood program that provides grants to raise or move homes damaged by a previous flood.

Responses to audience questions:

  • Who has responsibility to remove dead animals from lake/river, to minimize contamination? No specific answer was provided, but the county plans to have a citizen info center that we can call to report issues and get information.
  • How do floods impact septic systems, and what can we do? One suggestion is to remove toilet from floor and then plug the drain so septic fluids can’t get into the house. Also, should not pump it out beforehand, because it could float up. Better to fill it.
  • What about propane tanks? Those above ground should be secured with concrete.
  • Basements? Don’t pump a basement until after a flood because water pressure underneath can cause the floor to buckle. Regarding using a sump pump that detects small amounts of water, this can be used, but there is still the potential to buckle the basement floor.
  • How can you know if well-water is contaminated? See Red Cross book, “Repairing your Flooded Home” for section on flooded wells.

Swan River Impacts

There was very little information provided about Swan River flooding. It seemed that the Flathead County assumes that the Swan is all in Lake County (though a good portion is indeed in Flathead county), and Lake County is only beginning to look at impacts on the portion of the river in Lake county.

In my humble opinion, the counties have been doing little to help those of us who live along the Swan (although I’m told they are working on getting more info on Swan River impacts). Therefore, we will need to help ourselves. Be watchful for neighbors who need help or not aware of the dangers. Get to know your neighbors so you can be there for them, and they for you.

Lake County Impacts

Steve Stanley, director of Lake County Office of Emergency Management spoke next about impacts to Highway 35 (East Shore), Polson, and areas south of Polson, but did not have much information about Swan Lake and Swan River impacts. His contact information is 883-7253 (office) and  249-2893 (cell). He also provided the Lake County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number: 883-7301.

He indicated that parts of the East Shore could be impacted by rock slides and flood damage, that could potentially isolate neighborhoods. The irrigation ditches could also be impacted.

How you can help

The Bigfork Emergency Response Team (BERT) welcomes residents to sign up to provide volunteer help, such as for filling sandbags and helping neighbors, and also to help Bigfork Web Development with getting our local emergency website up and running.

BERT contact info:

Informational Links

Sources for original event posting

  1. DIL: Bigfork group begins flood preparation (dailyinterlake.com/news/local_montana/article_b87214cc-6a34-11e0-9241-001cc4c03286.html)
  2. Escape Magazine: 10 Events That Shaped Glacier (on the 1964 Flood) (www.flatheadbeacon.com/articles/article/escape_magazine_10_events_that_shaped_glacier/18293/)

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