Spring Thaw

Every year, the spring is a welcome change from the usual winter trappings of snow, icy roads, and freezing rain. However, before we start dusting off our camping gear and hiking boots, you should remember to prepare for the spring thaw. Rising temperatures and melting snow can drastically raise the levels of rivers and streams, and since Colorado is no stranger to heavy rains and hail storms during the spring, this can contribute to flash flooding.

Some of you may remember the now infamous Colorado Front Range Flood of 2013, which saw widespread property damage, tanks spilling crude oil, flooded fracking wells, and gallons of wastewater leaking into the environment. The damage was nothing short of catastrophic, prompting the President Obama to declare a state of emergency for many Colorado counties.

While that 2013 flood may not have been the result of a spring thaw, it does imply what a spring rain on a heavier than normal snow pack might do to any of Colorado’s major drainage basins.

We may not have the ability to predict these natural disasters, but we can prepare for the worst-case scenario. Here are some basic guidelines for flood events provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Get in touch with your county’s geologist or planning department to see whether you are located in a flash-flood or landslide-prone area. Just because your district hasn’t suffered losses due to floods doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a high-risk area.
  • Have you installed backwater prevention valves or plugs to your sewer lines? This will deter floodwaters from entering your facilities.
  • Evacuation drills and pre-planned escape routes should be a part of your district’s scheduled training sessions. Your emergency response plan should ideally include a list of emergency contacts as well as supplies.
  • For those who utilize fuel tanks, be sure to anchor them in advance. You wouldn’t want them ripping free and posing an additional hazard to others.
  • In addition to first aid kits, prescription medications, and non-perishable food, every emergency supply pack ought to have water-purifying supplies like iodine and chlorine tablets. Be sure to bring along battery-powered radios as well as proper gear like rubber boots, blankets, and even a small pillow.
  • If your district receives a flood warning, make sure you either secure any outdoor furniture and trash cans.
  • If your county receives evacuation orders, be sure to disconnect any appliances and equipment to prevent electrical shock once power is restored.
  • Be sure to follow the official evacuation routes provided by authorities. Don’t assume that you know the best route to safety.
  • Remember, failing to plan means planning to fail.

Here are some additional questions to ask your management team:

  • Are you prepared to house critical employees in place for a week when ingress and egress are cut off?
  • Do you have an alternative source of power for some defined period for continuing critical operations?
  • Who takes care of the families of essential employees while they keep services running?
  • Identify dams within your nearby watershed and their ability to withstand a significant flood event.

As a reminder, the CSD Pool provides a $2,000,000 per occurrence limit for flood coverage for scheduled property Flood Zone A property. Additional options for coverage on scheduled underground sewer and water utilities are available including Flood Zone A for more comprehensive flood damage.

As board members and management, you are tasked with protecting all of your district’s assets. Be sure to take time to schedule your district’s property to avoid any uncovered losses.

You can find more of these flood preparation guidelines on the CDC’s website.

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