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Disaster plan developed for major flood event

They don't think the spring melt will call for its use, but the City of Humboldt's Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) has developed a new plan if a major flood hits the community.

They don't think the spring melt will call for its use, but the City of Humboldt's Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) has developed a new plan if a major flood hits the community.
The City of Humboldt "Emergency plan for a flood from a major rain storm," which has yet to be approved by city council, was put together by local emergency services and Dale Becker, Humboldt's deputy EMO co-ordinator.
The city asked them to put together a plan, just in case something like the heavy flooding which occurred last year in places like Yorkton and Maple Creek ever happens here, Becker indicated.
Basically, the plan lays out what should happen if the city is in a severe flood situation - to the point where people have to be evacuated, Becker explained.
The plan lists possible major effects, what should be done, and equipment that could be needed and where, locally, it could come from.
It also contains a list of people with special skills who can be called in to help.
What happens, should this area receive a huge amount of rainfall in a short time, sparking flooding around the city, is that the Public Works department will be called out first to deal with what is happened. If they need help, they will call in the emergency services. And if the situation is still dire, the EMO will be brought in to help.
"If the emergency services can't handle it with their resources, and they need extra manpower to help (they call in the EMO)," said Becker, as the EMO has access to the manpower and equipment listed in their emergency plan.
Involving the EMO can also open the door to emergency funding from the government.
But citizens shouldn't leave everything up to others.
Should there ever be a flood or any other widespread emergency situation in the area, people can do a lot to help themselves, including putting together an emergency plan for the household, and a basic emergency kit that would provide them with the necessary things to survive for 72 hours.
An emergency kit should contain water, food, a manual can opener, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a radio with extra batteries, extra keys, cash, and an emergency plan.
The kit should be updated every year.
"You should be prepared all the time," Becker said. "Once we have a disaster, it's too late. Everyone will be after that same bottle of water."
The EMO has a variety of plans in place to deal with different disasters, not just flooding.
The plan will be going to the city's Protective Services committee for approval.
Runoff season
The city of Humboldt is not expecting to have to use this flood disaster plan to deal with spring runoff.
"We are planning for the worst, but expecting kind of a reasonable melt," said Joe Doxey director of planning and engineering for the City of Humboldt. "What we have right now, our system should be able to handle."
Though there is a good snow pack, it looks like it will be melting slowly over the next few weeks, he said. If the slow melt continues over the next 14 days, "we're in good shape," he believes.
Already, Doxey added, the snow pack has gone down from about half a metre in mid-March to a normal snow pack.
Should a major rainfall occur early, as it did last year on April 13, before the ground thaws, they may have to help the system along again, he noted. But the city has been rehabbing the storm sewer system over the winter so, it is hoped, the system can take what Mother Nature throws at it.
"We've sunk a lot of money, time and sweat into preparations," Doxey said. "We are in better shape than last year."
Pumps have been repaired, lift stations and ditches cleaned out, and a major force main upgrade completed on the east side of the city. In the past few weeks, city workers have also begun unplugging sewer grates and cleaning back lanes.
It would take a massive amount of rain, Doxey thinks, to overload the system again.
City workers, he added, are also more ready should we get another early rainfall.
As for what the public can do, a new website has been set up - - which contains information on protecting homes from excess runoff.
"If people take the snow away from their homes, that's one of the biggest things you can do," Becker recommended.
Doxey also asked that people try not to use back lanes too heavily during the melt. Heavy truck will create ruts that will affect runoff.
"Tread lightly, if you can, until it dries off," he said. "It's amazing what a week or two will do to make a difference."
For local emergency services, information will make the difference for them this spring.
Humboldt and District Ambulance Service (HDAS) and local fire departments are asking rural municipalities in the area to ensure they let them know which roads are closed due to flooding this spring.
"Most are pretty good about that," said Dave Mortensen of HDAS. Some have even sent in maps already, with all the roads numbered, which is a great idea, he noted.
The HDAS marks closed roads on maps kept at their base and in their units.
"Getting around was very difficult last year, and we're anticipating it could even be worse (this year)," Mortensen added. "Being informed and kept up to date on road closures is very important. There's nothing worse that coming up on a road closed sign and having to find an alternate route."
For fire departments, it's even worse when they come upon an unexpected "road closed" sign, indicated Mike Kwasnica of the Humboldt Fire Department, merely because of the size of their units.
"We have bigger and heavier vehicles," he said, so they are harder to turn around.
As it is, with the amount of flooding predicted for this area this spring, the HFD's tanker likely won't be going on any grid roads. It's simply too heavy and the roads will be too soft, Kwasnica said.
As for the rest of their units, they'll decide which ones will go out on call-by-call basis.

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