Watch for rising water this spring, Vail Valley
As I write this article, the front door is propped open, its sunny and warm, and it feels like spring has finally sprung in the valley.We all look forward to summers, but before the hot summer days can be balanced by wading ankle deep into Gore Creek, all the snow from the mountains must melt and make a mad dash down the streams and rivers into the waiting, half-empty reservoirs. The rafters and kayakers all look forward to the fun the spring runoff brings. But rescuers and emergency workers must prepare for the potential problems that come with high water.Not all the people who enter the water are aware of the hidden dangers that can be encountered or the forces that the runoff can produce. If you dont know what strainers or sweepers are, I encourage you to check out this Web site: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/water/habitats/rivers/safety.phtml. Its from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, but its full of some really good tips on river safety. Emergency workers and town leaders prepare every year for the spring thaw. Water levels are monitored; river rescue teams train and prepare their gear; sandbags are ordered, filled, and stacked; and the waterways are checked for any new hazards that have developed over the winter.Last month the town of Vail held a drill called The Big Drip III. It was an exercise to prepare the towns leaders and emergency responders in the event the weather gets too warm, too fast, causing the water levels to rise too much. The crews trained in how to handle any number of emergencies that could arise with the high water. The exercise simulated what might happen if an entire neighborhood was cut off by a flood. Those participating in the exercise recognized the importance of continuing to train not only with our fellow emergency responders, but with our community partners as well. The more we work together with Vail Resorts, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and the other entities, the better we will be able to respond should a flood or other crisis arise. Low spots in the rivers are identified and marked on maps so they can be closely watched during peak runoff times to prevent the rivers from overflowing their banks. The areas most at risk are identified ahead of time so emergency workers can respond more efficiently if there is a flood. Bridges are also monitored to prevent branches, tree limbs and other debris that can build up and weaken the buttresses. People should be ready to evacuate if there is a flood and seek emergency shelter. Its important to keep a 72-hour supply of food and water at home as well as a battery-operated radio, batteries and flashlights in the event the electricity goes out. If your home is next to the water, evaluate where the low spots are and plan for the rising water. Know where sandbags can be obtained and how to build retaining walls properly so they will contain or redirect the water. Also, have a plan in place for children or pets in the event the rising water prevents you from returning home or from going to get them. You should also know how to shut-off your utilities.Finally, make a list of items stored in the low areas of the home and consider moving them if they can be damaged by water. Most insurance plans dont cover flood damage, so advance preparation is going to be the key to saving time and valuables. Remember, the weather getting warmer, and the rivers and creeks are going to rise.