Monday, November 28, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Five

This is the continuation of the excellent series, Tempting Fate, by the Bee about the potential for flooding in Sacramento, which most experts agree is not a matter of if but when, and how bad, unless we do something substantial about storing the vast amounts of water that can flow into the American River watershed and hence the Sacramento River, during a major series of storms, such as those we witnessed in 1986 and 1997.

Today’s article focuses on the available maps showing where the flooding would occur and at what depth, for several scenarios of levee failure.

Tomorrow we will post the second article about the effect on one particular community, North Sacramento.

Flood maps help plan for peril
They show who's at risk, how to exit
By Deb Kollars -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Monday, November 28, 2005

Levee by levee, road by road, the city and county of Sacramento have pieced together plans for something they hope they never have to do: evacuate whole neighborhoods in a catastrophic flood.

The two governing agencies have developed an eye-opening collection of flood maps that show 18 hypothetical levee breaks, where the water would spread under worst-case scenarios, and how deep it would get.

Another 18 companion maps show evacuation routes and, chillingly, which of those routes could become inundated in a flood.

The maps, which have been shared with residents at recent city meetings and are being distributed online today by The Bee, come as part of a wave of stepped-up preparedness by cities, counties, school districts and hospitals across the region.

Heavy on the minds of those entrusted with public health and safety: the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the South in late summer. And the fact that there is no other major American city more at risk of a Katrina-style flood than Sacramento.

For people who live and work here, the maps couldn't have arrived too soon.

Joan Irving, for example, is a legal secretary who lives in south Sacramento. After attending one of the city's emergency preparedness meetings in September, she left with a boatload of questions.

"I'm a mother working downtown, with a daughter in college and three grandchildren at two different schools," she said. "If there's an emergency and they evacuate the kids, where are they going to be taken? How will we all find each other?"

Her concerns echoed the thoughts of many, who have questioned how prepared the community is to handle a flood.

Both the city and the county of Sacramento have lengthy plans in place to handle a flood emergency, from monitoring levees to ordering sandbags to sheltering evacuees.

But a number of local agencies and institutions are far from being ready. Several are retooling plans after watching the inadequate emergency response in New Orleans. Others acknowledged they are starting from scratch. Still others are simply scratching their heads.

The new city of Rancho Cordova, for example, does not yet have an emergency plan for a flood, and would follow Sacramento County's if a crisis arose. The city of West Sacramento has a plan that was updated last year, but the city still is working to identify day-care centers, senior centers and other vulnerable populations on its maps. The Grant Joint Union High School District has no plan for evacuating schools in flood-prone areas.

For the rest of the story: