News: Kansas officials held tele-town hall for flooding concerns
Story by Sgt. Jessica Barnett
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins hosted a live telephone town hall conference, June 15, 2011, in response to the possible flooding of the Missouri River in Northeast Kansas.
In attendance for the phone conference in the State Defense building in Topeka., Kan., were Brownback; Kansas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. (KS) Lee Tafanelli; Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger; Mike McNulty, Operations Director for the Bureau of Public Health Preparedness, Kansas Department of Health and Environment; along with representatives from the Kansas Division of Emergency Management and other state agencies.
Joining the teleconference by phone were Jenkins; Beth Freeman, Regional Administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency District VII; Dean Ownby, National Flood Insurance Program Branch Chief; Col. Anthony Hoffman, U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers District Engineer of the Kansas City District; Jud Kneuven, USACE Chief of Emergency Management of the Kansas City District; and Jody Farhat, USACE Reservoir Control Center.
The goal of the phone conference call was to inform residents of Northeast Kansas about the resources available to them, answer any questions they had about the flood and the state and status, preparation and response to the flooding of the Missouri River.
Calls were placed to residents of Atchison, Doniphan, and Leavenworth counties, while others were able to call in. More than 2,300 callers participated in the Town Hall meeting.
Many of the residents’ questions were concerning the rumors that insurance companies are claiming that they will not cover this flood because it is “man-made.” Ownby was able to ensure the Kansas community that no matter what caused the flood, if their flood insurance is in effect, they are covered.
“Some people are calling this a ‘man-made event.’ That is not the way we define a flood in the flood policy. As long as your policy was effective as of June 1, south of Garrison Dam, Midland, you will be covered by the flood policy.”
Praegar also reminded the community that flood is not a covered peril in the normal homeowner’s policy. The National Flood Insurance Program was established by an act of Congress in 1968. Water damage as a result of flooding, sewer back up or ground water seeping up into basements is not covered. But the National Flood Insurance Program does, which she encourages people to participate in, because your home or commercial property will be covered.
Many citizens also voiced their opinion that this flooding situation could have been prevented by better management from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The USACE addressed the concern during the town hall meeting.
“We operate in what is called the Master Manual, which is a water control plan which guides how much water should be released, when and how long from the reservoirs for the benefit of the basin,” shared Col. Anthony Hoffman, U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, Kansas City District. “This manual is based on 100 years of historical run of records.”
Many callers wished that the waters would have been released earlier to prevent the mass amount that is being pushed out now.
“The bottom line is, there was no reason to release additional water according to the Master Manual,” said Hoffman. “The game changing events were the rains in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, as well as kind of a perfect storm of high snowfall and high rainfall in early May. Those three combinations were unpredictable. Those were game changers in the reservoir system.”
Jody Farhat, USACE Reservoir Control Center, also noted that during the winter the rivers are frozen up north so there is no water to be released to prevent the massive overflow of melting snow.
Other important issues addressed during the meeting included questions about special needs individuals living within the area of possible flooding.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is urging residents who have special needs to call 2-1-1 and register with the Vulnerable Needs Planning System or go online to register: http://www.helpmekansas.org. Registration is free.
Registering does not guarantee services and should not take the place of personal preparation.
“If you or someone you know has a special need, perhaps mobility issues, oxygen usage or communication difficulties, please take advantage of this system to ensure emergency personnel are aware of your situation,” said Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “The information you voluntarily give will allow local emergency management officials to know where you are and what you require.”
The sole use of this information will be to assist emergency management in planning to assist these individuals before, during and after a disaster.
Brownback concluded the meeting by saying, “Key things folks, is to be watchful and be prepared. It’s going to be a long wet summer. If we get a long rainfall event in the lower basin, that’s when we really look at particular problems coming up, and just be tuned in and listening.”
For a listing of FAQs on flooding please go to www.floodsmart.gov.