Lessons from Texas disaster: Many in King County flood plain don't have flood insurance

SEATTLE – King County officials are urging everyone to take a second look at what’s happening in southeast Texas.  They say that flooding could happen here in the Pacific Northwest.

Eight years ago, the county formed the Flood Control District to get ahead of any potential flooding, minor or catastrophic.  So far $500 million worth of property taxes have gone into the program to get flood control infrastructure in place, like levees and revetments.

Right now is construction season for county crews checking our dams, levees, and other flood control systems.  King County officials say if there’s one lesson we learn from Hurricane Harvey, it’s to get prepared now.

The streets of Houston are now flooded rivers filled with muck and debris.

“It’s a real possibility that could happen here,” said King County Flood Control District Chairman Reagan Dunn.

Here at home, we’re looking at four major reservoirs that aren’t unbreakable.  There’s extreme concern for the Green River Valley, too.  If it floods, it wipes out one-eighth of our state’s economy, not to mention loss of life and property.

“If you get flooded, your home is pretty well ruined. The rot that occurs, the drywall, the insulation, the carpet, your personal belongings, all your memorabilia,” said Dunn.

It’s what we’re seeing in Houston with an estimated two-thirds of flooded homes without insurance.  If this was King County…

“We don’t have enough folks with flood insurance,” said Dunn.

Only 7,200 people have flood insurance in King County although 32,000 live in the floodplain, according to a 2013 report.

“Part of it is the psychology of it. If you have the insurance, at least once you get through the disaster, you know you’re going to be taken care of,” said Dunn.

Right now you can get 35-40% off flood insurance in King County thanks to special federal regulations.

Another lesson from Houston: evacuation routes.  That’s something King County is solidifying this summer.

“Making sure that our evacuation routes and our sheltering systems downstream of those major reservoirs are in place and properly communicated to the public,” said Dunn.

Along with the county, King County Emergency Management Program Manager Michelle Chatterton says there are three easy steps we can all take.  She says you can use the same easy plan to get ready for all disasters.

“Rural flooding, urban flooding, earthquakes, winter storms, power outages,” said Chatterton.

First, a go-kit.

“Some extra clothes, we’ve got some hygiene items,” said Chatterton.

Don’t forget to include medications, pet food, non-perishable snacks, water, and important documents printed out or on a thumbdrive.

Step two: have a plan if you couldn’t go home and make sure to tell your family and friends.  The last step is what we’re already seeing in Texas: know your neighbors.

“Most people’s first responder is going to be their neighbor,” said Chatterton.

To get emergency alerts from King County click here.