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Flood Preparedness and Initial Response

Flood Control Zone District
Flood Preparedness and Initial Response

Extensive coordination and preparation is required to develop a strategy for respondingFlooded levee once a flood event is underway.  In Whatcom County, the Public Works Department River and Flood Division works closely with the County's Division of Emergency Management (DEM) to plan for and implement a coordinated response during flood events to ensure public safety and minimize flood damages. 

If your property is prone to flooding, take steps to prevent or reduce flood damage. Read the Whatcom County Flood Newsletter to find out what you should do before, during, and after a flood. Every October, the DEM hosts an annual flood meeting to bring all of the agencies involved in responding to flood events together to review response procedures.  Agencies involved in emergency response include:

  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • National Weather Service
  • Red Cross
  • Whatcom County Sheriff's Office
  • Police departments within cities impacted by flooding
  • Fire departments within cities impacted by flooding
  • Fire departments within unincorporated Whatcom County impacted by flooding
  • Whatcom County Maintenance and Operations Division
  • British Columbia Ministry of Environment
  • Washington Department of Transportation
  • Local media

In addition to coordinating with external agencies, Whatcom County's flood response includes the mobilization of sector observers to evaluate flooding conditions in the field during a flood event.  The Nooksack River basin is divided into sectors.  During a flood, staff from the Engineering Division of Public Works travel throughout their assigned sectors and report back to River and Flood staff on actual flooding conditions in the field throughout the event.  The sector observers are the "eyes in the field" and their reports provide the information needed to coordinate an effective flood response.  River and Flood staff work with DEM and Maintenance and Operations to prioritize problem areas and take appropriate measures to ensure public safety, minimize the loss of public and private property and inform the public of current and expected flood conditions.  The photo above shows overtopping of the levee approximately 1000 to 3000 feet east of the Guide Meridian on January 8, 2002.

Once a problem area is identified in the field, the situation is assessed to evaluate whether actions can be taken to minimize damages.  At this point, mobilization of forces may be initiated to fight the flood.  The county trains crews comprised of low-risk offenders, Washington Conservation Corps, and high school students to assist in sandbagging operations during a flood.