Floods are the nation’s most common natural disaster. In Chelan County, stage, flash and post-fire flooding are the three most common types of flooding.
Stage flooding occurs during periods of heavy rains, especially when it falls on existing snowpack during early winter and late spring. Stage flooding can last several days after a storm.
Flash floods most likely occur during the summer thunderstorm season and are usually associated with cloudburst-type rainstorms. Winter flash flooding events, when they occur, are typically caused by ice or debris dams along our rivers and streams.
After a significant wildfire, vegetation is lost and soils can harden to repel rather than absorb water. This can result in mud or debris flows that impact public and private property.
Citizens are encouraged to be prepared for floods anywhere at any time. But just how do you prepare?
Purchase Flood Insurance
Homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flood-related damages. A separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program must be purchased to receive flood-related benefits. Flood insurance can be purchased for any property, including properties outside of FEMA's flood hazard areas.
Contact your homeowner's insurance agent to purchase flood insurance from the NFIP. Just know that there is a 30-day waiting period on new flood insurance policies. Go to the National Flood Insurance Program to learn more.
Know Your Risk
If you're not sure what the risks are for property you own or are considering buying, contact the Chelan County Floodplain Administrator at the Community Development Department. County staff can provide you with your flood risk zone.
Flood-Proof Your Home
Have you looked at elevating your home above flood levels? How about making your home water tight to fight floodwaters? FEMA publishes a comprehensive homeowner’s guide that’s available online. Download a copy of the Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your Home from Flooding.
Prepare Your Property
When you’re done flood-proofing your home, don’t forget to prepare your property as well. Do not build or store items within the floodplain unless they are properly elevated and anchored. Some items around your house, such as fuel tanks, are very buoyant and must be anchored using an approved method. HVAC systems, hot water heaters and electrical panels should be elevated above flood levels. Backflow valves should be installed on your sewer lines to prevent water and sewage from flowing into your house.
And don’t forget to routinely check those drainage systems – natural channels, irrigation ditches and roadside ditches – around your property. Maintenance to these systems is necessary or they can lose their water-carrying capacity because of debris accumulation, sediment buildup or vegetation growth. Debris such as grass clipping and leaves may also obstruct the flow of water in ditches. It is important for landowners to maintain the channels and ditches that run through their property to prevent flooding. If you see a blocked culvert in the county right-of-way, contact Chelan County Public Works.
Do You Need a Floodplain Development Permit?
When considering improving or building upon your property, looked into whether you need a Floodplain Development Permit. Building responsibly may save your property and home from disaster in the future. As a member of the NFIP, Chelan County must issue Floodplain Development Permits for all development in its flood-prone areas.
Learn the Role of a Floodplain
Floodplains play an important role in the environment. In fact, healthy floodplains can help increase flood protection, recharge aquifers and improve wildlife habitat. Watch the Natural Conservancy's video Floodplains by Design to learn about the role that floodplains play in an ecosystem and community.
Remember, simply keeping ditches and watercourses free of debris can dramatically improve the run-off capacity of low-lying areas, as well as greatly reduce the occurrence of blockage that significantly contributes to flooding. To report illegal dumping, contact the Chelan-Douglas Health Department at 509-886-6400. Illegal dumping in the county right-of-way should be reported to Chelan County Public Works.