On Oct. 20 through 26, the California Department of Water Resources is observing Flood Preparedness Week. Government and water agencies across the state are participating in an educational campaign to raise awareness of existing flood risks.
The month of October is a good time to become aware of weather-related threats and take necessary measures to protect your family and home. During this time we transition from the hottest months of the year to our rainy season. Flood risks increase after a drier-than-normal year and become exacerbated by the impacts of wildfires. For California, 2018 was a year of below-average rainfall and ravaging wildfires.
As the flood protection agency for the county, the Santa Clara Valley Water District works to reduce the risk of flooding and keep our communities safe. This week, we want to encourage residents to be flood-ready by preparing for storms and possible floods. Our flood-ready website is a hub of flood protection resources with six flood-safety themes:
- Identifying whether your home is in a flood zone
- Signing up for emergency alerts
- Considering flood insurance
- Learning what to do before, during and after a flood
- Knowing where to get sandbags and how to use them
- Reporting creek blockages and local street flooding
A critical tool on our flood-ready website is the stream monitoring map. This Flood Watch tool was designed with historical and geographical data from our county’s most flood-prone locations. The map features over a dozen points throughout Santa Clara County, each of these active gauges providing preliminary real-time data on stream flows and reservoir levels. The points are color-coded and help indicate whether the locations are at risk of flooding and to what degree (minor, moderate, major) based on the information gathered. Each location also features a graph with this staged information, that when clicked on, details the neighborhoods and streets impacted at each stage. The water district’s team of hydrologists continues gathering and analyzing stream information to fine-tune and develop this tool.
This week, we encourage you to spend some time becoming familiar with our tools and resources to help make decisions that will help keep your family and home safe. The rainy season will soon be upon us, so don’t wait until mid-storm to take action. We’re also running a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter featuring a series of flood-safety tips.
If you stop by the water district headquarters at 5700 Almaden Expressway in San José, during Flood Preparedness Week, you’ll get a glimpse of our flood-ready découpage, featuring hundreds of submittals from last year’s “Are you Flood Ready?” coloring contest. For the winter season of 2017-2018, our Education Outreach program helped organize a flood awareness coloring contest among grades kindergarten through sixth in Santa Clara County. Students were asked to list important items one should pack in an emergency kit. This effort was aimed at engaging youth in flood preparedness and spurring conversations at home to help families prepare.
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SCVWD is adept at telling us what we can do to prepare for flooding, but what are you doing to prevent it? Those of us who were victims of a preventable flood would like to know why our creeks aren’t clean, and why you haven’t taken even the minimum preventive measures regarding Anderson dam?
Thank you for your questions, Jolene. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is working diligently to protect the community in various places from flooding. We have numerous completed flood protection projects, and we are allowed to enter creeks in summer, with appropriate permits, to maintain the changes those projects made to the streams and to ensure those projects continue to carry water downstream instead of flooding. In 2018, we completed a temporary flood wall and berm in one of the areas most vulnerable to flooding. We have other flood protection projects under way or in the planning phases, and you can see those on the Project Updates tab on our website, valleywater.org.
Regarding Anderson Dam, our Board of Directors voted last year to keep its level even lower than the state Division of Safety of Dams requires, which lowers the possibility of the reservoir exceeding the storage restriction. That lower level will remain in effect for this winter. As Anderson was built and is operated primarily for water supply, the Board considers how the dam’s operation affects our county’s water supply. Progress continues on efforts to retrofit Anderson Dam to withstand a large earthquake, and you can read more about that at http://www.valleywater.org/anderson-dam-project.