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Posted 2/27/2018

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By Jud Kneuvean and David S. Kolarik


Flood preparedness is always a top priority for the Kansas City District, because the frequency and scale of flooding are very hard to predict we try to follow a consistent process from year to year.  We will begin updating our internal flood fight teams early this year. Personnel turnover somewhat drives the type and scale of training that we provide internally. Another key consideration for training and exercises is the frequency of flood response by the District. The District noted no appreciable flooding for the period from 1998 to 2007. As a result, we were more reliant on training and exercises to ensure preparedness of District personnel.

Since 2007, we have much more real world flood response experience, which allows us to scale back some of our training or tailor it to better serve our needs like developing activity specific training for our mobile liaison and technical response teams. Turnover of personnel can be another driving factor in the type of training and exercises we conduct. We must annually familiarize our existing teams with standard policies and procedures on how we conduct flood fights. 

Since 2011, we’ve looked at flood fights from a regional perspective.  We work with the Northwestern Division Readiness and Contingency Operations Office, the Northwestern Division water management, and the Omaha District to consider what the Missouri River basin flood outlook is for the upcoming spring flood season.  We try to look at basin conditions which includes National Weather Service forecasts, the condition of existing levee systems, and the status of ongoing projects, either new or rehabilitation, to provide all with a regional overview of current or forecasted conditions.

As we move out of winter, we’ll begin looking for the NWS long-range forecasts, which will give us their thoughts as to what the precipitation outlook will be, normal, higher than normal, below normal.  We use that along with reservoir conditions to determine what kind of communication or additional training/exercises we need to conduct with our state and local partners. Once the District has developed its own spring flood assessment, we begin the process of sitting down with our federal, state and local partners to inform about and discuss preparedness issues for the upcoming flood season.

Public sponsors may request flood fight training at any time. The request must be in writing and the public sponsor must agree to provide a facility that can accommodate 30-40 personnel for classroom training and an outside location that can be used to demonstrate sandbag filling and placement techniques. Additionally, the public sponsor is responsible for providing supporting materials for the outdoor portion of the training to include sand and a small loader like a Bobcat capable of loading a sandbag filling machine.

The District provides trainers, training materials, and sandbags at no cost to the public sponsor. We conduct at least two sessions of flood fight training for public sponsors annually. Our focus is usually on sponsors of congressionally authorized levee projects; however, over the last couple of years we have been working to expand our flood fight training audience. We are currently working with the Missouri National Guard to develop flood fight training that will meet their needs. We are also planning to provide training to a broader audience at the 30th annual Missouri State Emergency Management Conference in August 2018.

How can our levee sponsors help us? Information we need to know from our levee sponsors includes local conditions, reports of localized heavy rainfall, what tributary inflows look like, whether they are normal or high.  We need to know whether local sponsors have initiated some sort of Operation and Maintenance action, like replacing a culvert, modifying a cross section, or anything that would require some sort of flood fight action to ensure levee performance during a flood. We want feedback from our stakeholders on how we can better serve them.

Tom Waters, Chairman of the Missouri Levee District Drainage Association, believes much can be done prior to experiencing a flood event.  He stated levee sponsors should be encouraged to predetermine potential needs and acquire easements for ingress, egress and borrow areas from property owners in advance of flood events. Having easements in place prior to flood events will help speed the rehabilitation process if the levee is damaged.

Waters added the Corps might put more boots on the ground to get more eyes on the problem. The Corps could work more closely with sponsors to develop a plan to move forward with recovery during a flood.  He said the Kansas City District does a good job sharing information via social media, which he said is more and more important especially during flood situations.

“For years we’ve worked with the Corps and there is a positive synergy between us as we mutually benefit from the good working relationship,” said Waters.

flood preparation Flood Preparedness Kansas City District levee levee sponsors sandbag training