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FROM THE EDITOR: It’s time to take flooding threat seriously

By Ben Rodgers

County officials issued a stark warning to residents who experienced flooding events last year – expect more of the same in 2020.

The warning happened at a meeting where municipal leaders urged residents to be prepared for what could be a historically wet spring.

The tips were common sense, but with low temperatures and snow on the ground, flooding could very well be the last thing people are thinking about.

Here’s a breakdown of what people need to do:

• Visit floodinginbc.com to get specific floodplain information on where you live. While there, you can also sign up for Code Red, a public service tool that gives emergency alerts.

• Move property from the floor of your basement or garage onto a shelf.

• Talk to your insurance provider about flood insurance and see if you can take it out.

• Watch your sump pump. They are working extra hard right now with the high water levels, so think about a battery-powered backup unit.

• Have an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, blankets, food and phone chargers.

• See if your municipality can help. There may be sandbagging resources available.

• Plan for your pets, because if you get evacuated, they will not be allowed in shetlers.

• Don’t drive or walk in flooded roadways.

• If you get the call to leave, you need to leave. Those orders aren’t issued if not absolutely necessary.

It’s important to share this information so people who were impacted can prepare for the worst-case scenario now.

I photographed and wrote extensively about the worst-case scenario, and I learned water is an incredibly destructive force that’s difficult to contain.

I witnessed the National Guard called in to help a community deal with flooding. I saw a Black Hawk helicopter lower a 1-ton sandbag, and later that week, I watched hundreds of volunteers sandbag through the night to keep a school for children with disabilities dry.

Currently all of the Great Lakes are beyond or approaching their highest levels in recorded history.

All that water has to go somewhere, and the local area is home to streams, creeks and rivers that border residential areas.

All metro communities in the Greater Green Bay area have portions in the 100-year floodplain as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The term is misleading, because a 100-year flood doesn’t happen once every 100 years, rather it’s the estimated probability of a flood occurring in any given year.

When looking at those designations, you need to understand they are not based on history, but rather probability.

However, right now you can throw probability out the window when it comes to flooding in 2020, said Paul Fontecchio, Brown County Public Works director.

In terms of saturation, this year the region is not starting from square one.

The Great Lakes are the highest they’ve ever been, and ditches, ponds and streams are already full. This is evidenced by flooding we experienced in December.

“In other words, the cup is starting full already,” Fontecchio said. “The starting point is way higher than it’s ever been.”

Last year’s flooding here saw people evacuated only later to lose their homes.

Roads were closed, business was impacted and people had to adjust their lives in more ways than one.

Luckily no one died.

With projected forecast models, parts of Green Bay could likely see a second 100-year flood in as many years.

If you experienced flooding problems at all last year, you need to take action now to be prepared for this year. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

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