By Nancy Aird

1860 news from Missouri to California took ten days by Pony Express. Western Union transcontinental telegraph line rendered it obsolete by 1861. Today natural disaster breaking news only needs cell phone cameras and internet coverage. 2022 started with the atmospheric river of rain washing snow into rivers for major flooding declarations and volcano tsunami.

Washington State declared 11 Major Disaster Declarations with FEMA in 2021: two from a severe winter storm, straight-line winds, flooding, landslides, and mudslides, and nine from wildfire disasters. Overall, Washington State ranks as #2 for Flood Disaster Declarations, with 32 incidents declared since 1953. In 2022, FEMA has granted Disaster #4635 – Flooding and Mudslides for our state.

In Washington, the cost of flooding exceeds all other natural hazards. The Dept. of Ecology (DoE) site states flood clean-up may cost three times more than preventing the flood damage. There is over an 80% chance ten or more flood events will occur in our state in any given year. WA has three types of common floods. Western WA flooding usually results from prolonged winter rains. Eastern WA and the Cascade flooding are often triggered by spring snowmelt and rain-on-snow events. Coastal flooding results from storm surges, overwhelmed storm drains, flash floods, ice jams, debris blockages, and channel migration.

Wildland forest fires increase community flooding risks. The vegetation, under layers, and soil layers that normally absorb and slow the runoff of the water are affected up to 5 years from a wildfire incident. The burn scar is rated from low, moderate, to high. This depends on the severity of damage to the vegetation and soil. “These changes affect hydrological systems—streams, groundwater, water absorption, and other water processes—that greatly influence floods and landslides. That risk is then impacted by climate, slope angle, slope length, and other factors”. (Mills, 2015)

Risk management is a crucial mitigation factor in improving community and individual flood risks.

Attached is a link to a Risk Map to help facilitate flood planning. This site has clicked on information for governments, individuals, WA projects, FEMA Risk maps, and transparency overlays to help locate sites.

FEMA has published a NEW FLOOD INSURANCE RATING system. This rating methodology (Risk Rating 2.0) has updated the program in place since the 1970s. As a result, the rates may go up or down for policyholders with premium increases mostly on par with what they already pay. The new rates consider the cost to rebuild based on a single property’s unique flood risk. A fundamental change is once a premium reaches its total risk rate, increases stop.

Compare data at

“Map Your Neighborhood” is a WA Emergency Management Division’s Public Education program promoting neighborhoods preparing for emergencies and disaster situations by saving lives, reducing the severity of injuries and trauma, and reducing property damage. In addition, it teaches neighbors to rely on each other during the hours or days before the fire, medical, police, or utility responders arrive. Check the Emergency Management Division website or your county local site for this program.


Ready. Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.  U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Federal
Emergency Management Agency.  Retrieved from

Following the fire: Preventing floods and erosion.  Michigan tech news.

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