State prepares for flooding in Western Washington

Glenn Farley reports

SEATTLE – Are you ready for flooding on western Washington rivers? 

It is that time of the year, and the odds for flooding have increased, according to the National Weather Service. November and December are typically the wettest months of the year.

"We had a very wet October," said National Weather Service Hydrologist Brent Bower.  "So our rivers, our soils, so everything is getting juiced up. So any good sized rain event, we're ready to have a flood." 

The state has been dealing with drought and drought recovery over the past several years. This is driven in part by El Nino, which normally creates warmer and drier winters. The winter of 2014-15 saw record low snowpack. 

Now the focus is on the opposite, a wetter and colder La Nina cycle. Current climate forecasting shows a neutral or weak La Nina, but so called neutral years have seen some of the biggest storms.

However, climate predictions are about averages, not about the odds of larger storms. More rain stretched out over smaller storms may add up totals that don't cause flooding, while intensive storms can bring disaster. 

What is happening to get ready for this year?

There are new river forecast methods for the Dungeness River on the Olympic Peninsula. New technology is deployed at the gauging station on the Green River at Auburn to monitor flood potential downstream. 

King County's Department of Natural Resources and Parks is adding flood phases for the first time to the South Fork of the Skykomish River. The flood thresholds have been lowered on the White River to tell people earlier when flooding can be expected.

One continuing concern is the town of Pacific. It’s in both King and Pierce Counties, which is leading to better cooperation between the two counties on flood issues, including large construction projects to give the White more room to fan out without impacting homes. That includes how warnings are issued. 

"Nature knows no jurisdictions, so we need to make sure we're talking the same language," said Sarah Foster, a spokesperson for the Pierce Co. Department of Emergency Management. 

Find flooding information and sign up for alerts in your county:

Copyright 2016 KING


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