Wildfire increases the potential for flooding, mud and debris flows that could affect campgrounds, fish habitat, homes, structures, roads, and other infrastructure within, adjacent to, and downstream from the burned area. Fall weather events in Central Washington can bring heavy rain storms or rain-on-snow events. Residents and visitors should remain alert to possible flooding when traveling along roads downstream from the burned areas of the recent Central Washington wildfires.
Central Washington Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team is working with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to assess the condition of watersheds that were burned in the throughout the summer. The BAER assessment team identifies potential emergency threats to critical values-atrisk, and recommends emergency stabilization response actions that are implemented on federal lands to reduce potential threats.
One of the BAER strategies is interagency coordination with local cooperators who assist affected businesses, homes, and landowners prepare for rain events. The Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are working together and coordinating with other federal, state and local agencies, and counties that assist private landowners in preparing for increased run-off and potential flooding.
Federal assistance to private landowners is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. NRCS works with local governments (sponsors) to implement emergency measures in the wake of natural disasters to safeguard human lives and property. NRCS and the local sponsor prepare damage survey reports for eligible sites on private lands adjacent to and downstream from affected areas. NRCS uses these reports, along with the BAER team’s assessment report, any may develop emergency measures to reduce the impacts from potential increased water and debris flows, and assist sponsors to implement recommended emergency measures.
Multiple agencies work with BAER teams and look at the full scope and scale of the situation to reduce the potential threats to human life and safety, and property; however, BAER emergency treatments actions on federal lands cannot prevent all of the potential flooding or soil erosion impacts, especially after wildfires change the landscape.
It is important that residents take steps to protect themselves and their property from flooding and debris flows:
• For their safety, communities need to monitor local weather reports and public safety bulletins, local road closures, emergency notifications, weather alerts, follow local county and city advisories, and act accordingly.
• Use a “weather radio” or smart phone “weather app” that monitors “all hazards” alerts issued by the NOAANational Weather Service (www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/).
• Prepare for rainstorms by being prepared to evacuate if county or city emergency officials determine that flooding and mudflows are expected which could pose an increased threat to human life, safety, and property.
• Know and be alert to environmental signs of dangerous weather conditions and be prepared to take action that can save lives.
• Understand that all drainages within and downstream of the burned areas can produce flooding.
• If you find yourself in a flood, climb to safety (seek higher ground).
• Even if the water appears shallow enough to cross, don’t try it by vehicle or foot. Water hides dips in the road – worse yet, there may be no road left under the water as flooding can scour away the entire road surface and ground beneath the road.
Interagency Resources for Flood and Storm Preparedness and Emergency Information can be found in the Preparing for Rain Storms PDF