Military News

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Preparation for floods

by Airman 1st Class Christopher Morales
JBER Public Affairs


9/3/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Anywhere it rains, it can flood. In late September 2012, Anchorage had a flash flood, stranding cars and shutting down streets, which resulted in one fatality and 23 million dollars in damage.

That was from rainfall alone, but other conditions can cause flooding.

In Alaska, it is most likely to occur due to the melting of snow and ice in varying degrees. A midwinter or early spring thaw can produce large amounts of runoff in a short period of time. When the ground is still frozen hard, water cannot be reabsorbed, causing excess water to spill over banks.

Floods are strong enough to roll boulders, rip trees, and outright destroy buildings and bridges, and can occur any time of year.

"Springtime is the biggest time for flooding here," said Jilene Reichle, JBER Emergency Management plans and operations manager.

During a long cold spell the surfaces of rivers and lakes freeze. Rising water levels or a thaw could break the ice into chunks, eventually floating into choke-points causing ice jams which can lead to severe flooding depending on river-flow.

"Typically if there is a heavy winter snowpack, you're going to have a flood," said Air Force Capt. Ted Labedz, JBER Emergency Management flight commander.

Flash floods can also occur after the collapse of a man-made structure like a dam.

"If the Ship Creek dam [broke], in conjunction with a large-magnitude earthquake, several areas [would] have minor floods," Labedz said.

During a flood, it is best to always go to the highest level of your home or workplace, Labedz said. Do not drive if there is more than a foot of water on the road and if you have to drive, know the safest routes on high ground.

For any disaster, it is paramount to have an emergency kit. Especially during a flood, if there are no clear pathways to food and water, your kit should have the necessary supplies to last at least a week.

Some helpful links are: www.fema.gov, www.floodsmart.gov, www.pdc.org, www.avo.alaska.edu, and www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.

For more information, visit the JBER Emergency Management office or call 551-7526.

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