The week of March 18-22 is Flood Safety Awareness Week.
On average over the past 30 years, floods have claimed the lives of 95 people annually and caused about $8 billion in damage," according to floodsafety.noaa.gov.
Locally Emergency Management and those along the Upper Iowa and Turkey Rivers are keeping a watchful eye on not only the water levels but the snow load. Earlier in February, the National Flood Prediction Center in Chanhassen, Minn. had predicted minimal to average flood threat, with later weather this prediction may be changed.
Since the flooding of 2008, Emergency Management with the assistance of Decorah Water Department has added a number of staff gauges (visually read) along both the Upper Iowa and Turkey rivers. Two remote reading gauges were procured from and placed by the Iowa Flood Project and two new USGS gauges were also placed on these rivers. Additionally, remote gauges were placed at selected locations in the county.
Additional equipment for sand bagging was obtained by Emergency Management and is available for flood-prone cities.
But the main word from the National Weather Service, Emergency Management, and local law enforcement when you see water flowing across your road is "Turn around - don't drown." A minimum of six inches of flowing water can push a car off the road way.
Immediately following Flood Safety Awareness Week is Iowa Severe Weather Awareness Week. During the week, the La Crosse National Weather Service will have special messages broadcast each weekday on the All-Hazards Radio from Decorah.
Weather spotter training
On Tuesday evening, March 26, at 6:30 p.m. the La Crosse NWS will present a SKYWARN training program at the Decorah City Hall. The two-hour program is open to the public and everyone is encouraged to attend. Winneshiek County needs additional "eyes" watching the skies for severe weather. Persons attending the program will receive a training certificate of attendance from the Winneshiek County Emergency Management Agency.
The class will last around 2 hours and includes a multimedia presentation. Training is intended for storm spotters or potential storm spotters, but is open to the public and free of charge. A review of significant weather that hit the region in 2011 and 2012 will be included.
The NWS relies heavily on actual storm reports from "spotters," which can include sheriff's departments, local emergency management officials, police and fire departments, amateur radio operators, or anyone else that has attended one of these classes. These reports can prompt warnings that save lives, which has been proven many times through the years when severe weather strikes.
Todd Shea, warning coordination meteorologist with the weather service in La Crosse, Wis. organizes the training each year and encourages large groups and service volunteers.
"Accurate and timely reports of severe weather, by trained individuals, not only helps our office, but can save lives in the local community. We always need more eyes to the sky," he said.
For more information, contact Winneshiek County Emergency Management at 563-419-0511.