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King County urges people to prepare for landslide, flash flood risk from Bolt Creek Fire

The risk is highest in burn scar areas, where the ground is weaker and more susceptible to landslides and flash flooding with even a small amount of rain.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Communities in the Cascade foothills where the Bolt Creek Fire broke out this summer need to start preparing for the possibility of landslides and flash floods, King County Executive Dow Constantine urged Wednesday.

Constantine said King County is working with emergency management officials and the National Weather Service to make sure people are ready, including by going door-to-door.

The risk is highest in the burn scar from the fire, where the fire-damaged ground is weaker and more susceptible to landslides and flash flooding with even a small amount of rain.

"This is our new reality," Constantine said. "These risks and hazards will not disappear overnight. I'm no expert on this, but I know that it is going to take time for the hillsides to become revegetated for them to be able to hold water again during storm events."

Wolcott said the United States Geological Survey examined the burn scar and determined as little as a quarter of an inch of rain in 15 minutes, or half an inch an hour could produce flash flooding and landslides.

"We've never seen a burn this severe at this scale that has impacted our region," said Reid Wolcoff, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle. "This is happening in a location where we have homes and infrastructure that are at risk of being demolished."

With rain and snow returning to the region for the winter, King County emergency officials urged residents along US 2 to be prepared in case they become isolated and to make emergency kits of essential supplies.

"With the landslides and these other hazards that could happen with almost no or very little warning, residents of the area and all people within King County should have an emergency plan," said Brandon McCluskey, King County Emergency Management Director.

While western Washington has felt the impacts of landslides, but due to the severity of the burn scar, there is a possibility of seeing debris flow. Those are a type of landslide that consist of fallen trees, mud and boulders that travel like rivers down slopes.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that as little as a quarter inch of rain falling in 15 minutes could potentially lead to flash floods and debris flows.

According to the King County website, your emergency kit should include (at a minimum) the following items:

  • Water
    • One gallon per person per day (for drinking, washing, cooking)
  • Food
    • Non-perishable, ready-to-eat food
    • Select items you like to eat
    • Monitor expiration dates and replace them as needed 
  • First Aid supplies
    • Bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, scissors, tweezers, and pain-relief medication
    • Prescriptions and personal medical equipment
  • Electronics
    • Light sources that are hand-cranked or battery powered
    • Portable radio and extra batteries (a great way to stay informed)
    • Alternate means to charge your phone or computer 
  • Clothing
    • At least one extra pair of warm clothing
    • Rainproof outer clothing and boots to keep you dry
    • Comfortable, sturdy shoes in case you need to walk long distances

King County emergency officials urged residents to sign up for ALERT King County, a public information and notification service.

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