The first line of defense against flooding is not sandbags, but “good, accurate information,” said Scott Boettcher, who works with the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority.
Last month, Boettcher presented https://chehalis.onerain.com, a site that pulls together weather, inundation maps, river forecasts and much more, to various responding agencies from throughout Lewis County. He also spoke about the authority’s email alert system, which sends notifications when water is high. This week, he reported that sign-ups have increased for that system by 492% since 2014 and 62% alone in the last year.
Social media campaigns and news items about the system have been among the drivers of the system’s success, Boettcher reported.
Last month, a gage was added to China Creek. While it may be a few seasons before the data gives Centralians a good read on the effects of the creek at various levels, it represents a positive step for damage reduction in the Hub City.
“We’ve had an excellent sign-up this year for gage alerts,” Boettcher wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “The China Creek gage, for example, is scarcely a few weeks old, yet the sign-ups are very healthy.”
The high volume of sign-ups has also decreased the costs to run the system, which is free to users, making it a more sustainable tool for the future. The availability of flood data now can empower residents to make decisions on evacuation and travel, Boettcher said.
To sign up, email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org with a name, email and a list of desired river gages along the Chehalis to observe, residents can now receive email alerts when waters are high.
“This is your system,” Boettcher said in a meeting last month. “And it’s an important first line of defense.”