Ottawa Co. officials talk flooding preparations

The Grand River covered in ice. (February 2014)

WEST OLIVE, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are preparing for potential flooding this spring — though it’s not expected to be as extreme as the flooding of April 2013.

Representatives from Ottawa County municipalities met with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management, National Weather Service, Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard met Thursday afternoon to discuss the flooding concern.

NWS hydrologist Mark Walton said conditions are a “ticking time bomb” for spring flooding.

“What we’re really nervous about is the above-normal water in the snowpack,” he said.

Walton told officials Thursday that the chances of minor flooding are higher this year than is typical. Usually, the chances of minor flooding are between 5% and 20%. This year, they are between 40% and 90%.

It’s important to note that the flooding West Michigan saw in April 2013 was much more serious than the minor flooding we could see this spring.

Walton said there is concern for areas along the Grand River between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, in the Kalamazoo basin and in the Muskegon basin.

He said a gradual warming trend — with a slow snow melt and no rain, as well days above freezing and nights below — could decrease chances of flooding. But a fast warmup consisting of multiple days of 50 degrees or more, or a late snow or heavy rain would increase the likelihood of minor flooding.

At Thursday’s meeting, authorities discussed what they learned from last year’s historic flooding, and what has since been done to decrease future flooding damage. They also talked about how their agencies can work together and how to prepare residents for a potential flood. Local officials were given information packets and disaster recovery books.

Residents are asked to clear their roof drains, shovel snow from homes’ foundations and clear catch basins to help decrease the risk of and damage from a flood.

They are also reminded to create a family plan and kit for a variety of emergencies.

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