By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Two days of heavy rains beginning tonight means flooding is possible around the Newaukum and Chehalis Rivers as well as others around Western Washington.
Lewis County Emergency Management Deputy Director Sgt. Ross McDowell said today he expects minor field flooding and urges folks to clean out leaves and debris from storm drains and culverts to help disperse the water.
A windstorm is also forecast to move through parts of Western Washington after 10 o’clock tonight, with winds as much as 30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
McDowell took the opportunity as flood season kicks off to remind the public that most natural disaster deaths come from walking or driving through floodwaters. November is the second most frequent month for floods in Lewis County, following February, according to McDowell.
Five such deaths occurred locally in 2006 and in 1990, according to McDowell.
Here’s what he wants people to know:
• Six inches of moving water can cause a person to fall and can cause a loss of steering control or even engine stalling.
• Twelve inches of water can float most vehicles.
• Two feet of water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickup trucks.
• Beneath a water-covered roadway, the road surface could be damaged or washed away.
McDowell also offers reminders of what to do before, during and after a flood, in hopes that preparedness will keep first responders free to deal with life-threatening emergencies:
BEFORE A FLOOD
• Gather three to five days worth of emergency supplies for home, pets and livestock, including medication and cash.
• At least one plug-in wall phone will help for emergency calls in case the power goes out.
• Learn how to purify water and how to decontaminate a well.
• Keep a tankful of gas in the car.
• Keep insurance policies in a safe place.
• Listen to your radio, television or weather radio for reports of flood danger. Check river readings, road conditions and weather alerts at the county website.
DURING A FLOOD
• Stay away from moving water. Wash hands well if you come into contact with flood water.
• Stay away from downed power lines.
• Stay away from disaster areas unless authorities ask for help.
• Keep listening to radio or television for reports of flood danger.
• Limit phone calls to keep lines clear for emergency calls; call 911 only in life-threatening emergencies.
AFTER THE FLOOD
• Wear gloves and boots when cleaning up.
• Open all doors and windows; use fans if possible to air out buildings.
• Wash all clothes and linens in hot water.
• Discard mattresses and stuffed furniture, they can’t be adequately cleaned.
• One cup of bleach per gallon of water will work for wiping and disinfecting various surfaces; use soap and water to wash mud from walls, counters and floors.
• Cans of food can be opened after they are thoroughly washed; throw out all other food that comes into contact with flood water.
Check National Weather Service forecasts and their river level readings with the links on the right hand sidebar of Lewis County Sirens website.