Cantwell Encourages Washingtonians to Review Plans for Flooding During Flood Awareness Week

Cantwell: ‘Together We Can Ensure That When Flooding Strikes, Washingtonians Are Better Prepared’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) encouraged residents in flood-prone areas to re-examine their flood preparation plans, in recognition of Flood Safety Awareness Week. Flooding is a persistent problem in Washington particularly in the spring when rain mixes with melting snow. In 2011 Washington had the second highest flood damage claims of any Western state, with more than tens of millions of dollars in damages, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) data.

From March 14 through March 18, FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are reminding families in flood-prone areas to protect themselves and their property with simple steps, including: having an emergency preparedness kit, storing important documents in a safe place, and considering the purchase of flood insurance

“Each year floods pose a serious threat to the safety and property of Washington state residents and businesses,” said Cantwell. “That’s why it’s important for Washington residents to be ready. This week is a helpful reminder that each one of us should take the necessary steps to protect our homes and property from flooding. By combining tools like our new coastal Doppler radar system with well-prepared plans for confronting these natural disasters, we can help mitigate the damages they bring. Together we can ensure that when flooding strikes, Washingtonians are better prepared.”

Washington’s state-of-the-art coastal Doppler radar is the first fully operational Doppler radar in the nation equipped with dual polarization, the latest enhancement in radar technology for civilian weather forecasting. As of October 2011, Washington state was the first state to have full dual polarization upgrades installed on all four National Weather Service Doppler radar stations.

Western Washington’s only other Doppler radar is located on Camano Island, but the radar’s reach is largely blocked by the Olympic Mountains, which caused large gaps in weather data of storms approaching the Washington and Oregon coast. The new coastal radar helps close this data gap, enabling forecasters to better determine wind speed and rainfall of incoming storms to give more accurate and timely warnings to residents in harm’s way and help prevent loss of life and billions of dollars in property damage.

Since 1970, each Washington state county has received a Presidential Disaster Declaration for flooding, which qualifies the affected area for additional relief funding from FEMA. The Washington counties most impacted by floods include: Grays Harbor, King, Lewis, Snohomish, Skagit, Pierce, Thurston, Cowlitz, Whatcom, Clark, Mason, and Pacific.

Floods occur somewhere in the United States nearly every day of the year, killing nearly 100 people on average annually, and causing billions of dollars in damage. The risk is especially high in areas where floods driven by extreme weather, coastal storms, and spring snowmelt pose a serious threat.

During Flood Safety Awareness Week, families and individuals are encouraged to take a few simple steps to protect themselves and their property. Most standard homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover flood damages, and most policies take 30 days to go into effect. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program makes flood insurance available through thousands of insurance agents located in nearly 21,000 communities across the nation for an average of $600 per year, or as low as $129 per year for lower risk areas. According to FEMA, 20 percent of all flood insurance claims come from moderate-to-low-risk areas.

Cantwell has long been a strong advocate for improving weather forecasting and flood preparedness for Washington and the Pacific coast, including consistently supporting NOAA’s use of a highly specialized research aircraft to patrol the North Pacific Ocean for approaching storms, ensuring more accurate long-term forecasts for winter storms that threaten Washington state and much of the North American continent. She was also instrumental in making the state’s first coastal Doppler radar operational in time for the 2011 winter storm season. The new coastal Doppler radar is helping to close large gaps in data of storms approaching Washington’s coast and provides forecasters with a better idea of what wind speeds and rainfall will look like.