Gov. Otter warns of potential flood disasters in Idaho

The governor and other officials hope to raise awareness about being prepared.

BOISE - Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says residents facing possible flooding in some areas of the state aren't taking what he calls a potential disaster seriously.

"We've got to get the word out that this is a disaster waiting to happen and we don't need people to add to it by getting on the river," Otter said.

This as city and county administrators work to get across the severity of the situation at hand.

"We've closed the Greenbelt in many, many areas. Far more areas are closed than are open because of the unpredictability of this situation," Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said.

"I had a report from a rancher just last week of a bull being washed away. It got too close to the bank and if a bull can get washed away, a kid can get washed away, you can get washed away as an adult. So if that bank is not stable that river is powerful," Canyon County Commissioner Tom Dale said.

About a dozen state and federal officials at a news conference in Boise Wednesday described mountain snowpack of more than double the average in many areas as well as emergency plans and the need for residents to be alert.

Most of the concern is in highly-populated southwest Idaho along the Boise River due to a giant snowpack and dwindling space in three reservoirs currently preventing destructive downstream flooding.

Water managers said on most days water is coming into the Boise reservoir system faster than what the Army Corp of Engineers is letting out. Over time it's eaten into the remaining capacity, which the Corp says is at 32 percent; only half of what they have normally at this time.

"We have made a very calculated decision to this point to keep the flows at where they're at, we absolutely could have released enough water to match up with those record run-offs, but the result would have been absolutely flooding Boise," LTC Damon Delarosa with the Army Corp of Engineers said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says plans are to run the river at high flows over a longer period of time and into the summer to avoid even larger releases that could flood residential areas.

One of the challenges emergency personnel have faced is the amount of snow that was in the low-lying areas; as we've started to see these warming trends, it's resulted in anywhere between 200 and 350 percent of normal run-off. Also, not helping the situation is the recent spring snow storms that some areas have seen in recent weeks.

This is why officials are urging residents to be ready.

"The banks are unstable, the trees are unstable, we've already had incidents of people's pets perishing because of this situation," Bieter said.

The Idaho Office of Emergency Management says the initial damage estimates from flooding, avalanches, and mudslides from all across the state are in the excess of $62 million. The state has applied for federal aid, but was denied.

Otter announced an appeal to that decision is in the envelope and plans to be sent off Wednesday.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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