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Sources of Flooding in Jefferson County
prepared for potential floods in our community? Jefferson County
lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Puget Sound, and has an
extensive river stream system which drains water from the Olympic
Mountains. Please familiarize yourself with methods that will help
to protect you and your property from potential flood damage.
Flooding in Jefferson County occurs in the winter months. Coastal flooding is
caused by storm surges which result from high spring tides and
strong winter storm winds. Newspapers have reported wave run up
during heavy wind storms in Port Townsend.
swell during winter months when heavy rains and snowmelt produce the
highest runoff flows. The greatest and most frequent flooding
occurs at river mouths where the high river waters are held back by
concurrent ocean water surges and heavy rains characteristic of
The flooding is
a frequent occurrence on the plains near the coasts. Between 1938
and 1966 (28 years), the Duckabush River flooded 26 times. Between
1931 and 1982 (51 years), the Dosewallips River flooded 23 times.
In 2002, the flooding of Dosewallips changed the river course near
Highway 101 (Leader
2003). In 2003, Dosewallips flooded the streets near Brinnon
3.5 feet. In the same flood event, Duckabush flooded the Fire
District #4 Station (Leader
Quilcene River floods every 2 to 3 years. The Little Quilcene
River also floods and causes damage. In the 8 years between 1974
and 1982, "Little Quil" has flooded 7 times! The flooding of the
Little Quilcene makes some of the roads in the area impassable.
Salmon and Snow
Creeks occasionally overflow their banks but cause little damage.
Hoh, and Clearwater Rivers flood regularly, and damage is common to
roads and bridges. The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader
reported road repairs along the Hoh in 2004.
Jefferson County has been listed
in flood-caused National Disasters 8 times in the 23 years between
1982 and 2005. This includes the November 1990 flood which is
considered one of the Top Ten Weather Events of the 20th
century. Two lives were claimed and
worth of damages was caused in that
Flood Risk on Your Property
The first thing
you should do is check the flood hazard at your location. By
entering your address in the appropriate fields on the official
National Flood Insurance Program website, you can immediately
learn about the predicted risk of flooding at your location.
flood maps as well as information on local flood hazard are
available at the
You can also
visit the Department of Community Development (DCD)
at 621 Sheridan Street (Castle Hill Mall, a.k.a. the QFC parking
lot), Port Townsend, or call (360) 379-4450, and ask for the
"Planner of the Day" from the Development Review Division (DRD)
to see if you live in a mapped floodplain. "Planner of the Day"
services are offered from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM during the work week,
except Wednesdays, when the schedule switches to 1:30 PM to
property lies within a mapped floodplain, the planner will give you
more information, such as the base elevation above which flooding is
estimated to have a one percent (1%) chance of occurring in any
given year (i.e., "a 100-year event"). This elevation is used to
determine the minimum elevation of the lowest floor for the
structures you plan to construct on your property (Jefferson County
Code or "JCC"
15.15.70), as well as the minimum elevation of a structure that
will be substantially improved (see Definition of Substantially
JCC 15.15.030). If your
house is already built and you know the elevation of your house, you
will be able to determine the estimated level of flooding that you
may expect in your house.
may also advise you about the federal mandate to purchase flood
insurance for a property in the floodplain, and tell you about the
limitations of insurance coverage for coastal lands deemed high
hazard by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
can check the baseline elevations of the newly constructed buildings
in your area. These are noted on the Elevation Certificates that
are required since June 2006 for every new structure or
substantially improved structure in the floodplain in Jefferson
Click on this link to assess the scanned copies of the Elevation
Certificates on line.
floods generate serious risks to people and property. Flood waters
are contaminated with human, animal and industrial waste and are a
breeding ground for bacteria. A flood 6 inches deep can knock
people off their feet. It could take only 2 feet of water to float
a car away or cause the car to flip, trapping persons inside. Keep in
mind that during a typical 30-year mortgage period, a home in a
mapped flood plain has about a 26 percent chance of being damaged by
a 100-year flood event. The same structure only has about a
one-percent chance of being damaged by fire (source:
Flood Damage Prevention -
Several of Jefferson Countyís efforts to minimize flood risk depend on your
cooperation and assistance. Here is how you can help:
- Please visit the
Floodplain Management Association "Flood Basics" webpage and
click "Learning Center" to learn about flood prevention and
reducing flood damage. You may also wish to enroll in a
local emergency preparedness class where flood preparedness is
discussed along with other hazards. Please contact
or visit the FEMA
Website for more information.
dumping of yard debris or household wastes into ditches and
streams can worsen flooding and water pollution and make cleanup
more difficult and expensive. If you see yard
debris or household wastes
in ditches or streams, please call the
Public Works Department
at (360) 385-9160 or
Environmental Health at (360) 385-9444.
Several methods are available to
protect a building from flood damage:
- If you expect floodwaters
below 2 feet, you may wish to place an earthen berm around your
You may also
consider waterproofing your house or placing watertight closures
over the doorways, though this method is not recommended for
expected floods over 2 feet or for structures with basements.
not expected to be flooded may have sewers that back up into the
basement during heavy rains. Installing a plug or a sandpipe
purchased from a local hardware store can prevent the back-up when
floodwaters are less than 2 feet; valves or other measures may be
taken to prevent back-up from larger flood, but please consult a
plumber before installation.
It is also
possible to raise an existing house above the anticipated flood
levels; in fact, this measure is required for newly built or
substantially improved structures in the floodplain in Jefferson
FEMA FloodSmart website and refer to the
2-page Checklist for Homeowners: Avoiding
Flood Damage for more ideas, including ones that
are simple and free, that will help you protect your family and
your belongings. For example, keep your car filled with gas.
Take pictures of the valuables that are in your home.
You may also
pick up the Disaster Preparedness Handbook prepared by the
State of Washington or
visit this page for advice on measures to take in the event of
any emergency. These materials are available at the front desk of
Environmental Health division of Jefferson County Public Health,
at 617 Sheridan St. in Port Townsend.
that before taking any of these measures you should
Floodplain Management Association "Flood Basics" webpage and
Properties" page to learn about effective implementation of
the methods suggested above. Furthermore, you should inquire at
the Department of Community Development (DCD)
at 621 Sheridan St. in Port Townsend for permit requirements for
the flood proofing method you wish to implement.
insurance policies do not cover damage from floods. However,
because Jefferson County participates in the
National Flood Insurance Program
you can purchase a separate flood insurance policy. This insurance
is backed by the Federal government and is available to everyone,
even for properties that have been flooded. Some people have
purchased flood insurance because it was required by the bank when
they got a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually these
policies just cover the buildingís structure and not the contents.
Donít wait for
the next flood to buy insurance protection. There is a 30-day
waiting period before National Flood Insurance Program coverage
takes effect. Contact your insurance agent for more information
on rates and coverage or
visit this NFIP- sponsored website. To find out what your flood
ďzoneĒ is, type in your address in the fields
at this website, or call the Department of Community Development
at (360) 379-4450 and ask for the "Planner of the Day."
Flood Warning System in Jefferson County
County obtains flood warning information from the National Weather
Service. Information is received 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by
Communications). Flood warnings are disseminated via radio (710AM),
and other communication methods.
For up to date
flood warnings and weather information, you can also visit the
You may wish to
purchase a weather alert radio that will sound in your home in case
of a weather emergency, including floods. The radios are
inexpensive and available at most hardware stores.
If case a flood
warning is issued and you need to evacuate, keep your car filled
If you know a
flood is coming, you should shut off the main gas and electricity
switch (forget about the food in your fridge Ė it will be
contaminated anyway), and move your valuables upstairs. It is
unlikely that you will get much warning, so a detailed checklist
prepared in advance would help ensure that you donít forget
Click now on the following link for
a list of measures to protect yourself and your property when flood
is imminent (8 hours away or greater).
Safety During Flooding
Do NOT walk
through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood
deaths, mostly during flash floods. Currents can be deceptive; six
inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. If you walk in
standing water, use a pole or stick to ensure that the ground is
Do NOT drive
through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than
anywhere else. Donít drive around road barriers; the road or bridge
may be washed out.
Do NOT drink or
eat, even after boiling, anything that may have come in contact with
floodwater. Floodwater is a breeding medium for bacteria and
contains human, animal and industrial wastes. Remember that your
tap water, whether it comes from a well or a public water source, is
contaminated after a flood.
Stay away from
power lines and electrical wires. The number two flood killer after
the drowning is electrocution. Electric current can travel through
water. Report downed power lines to the local power company
electricity turned off by the power company. Some appliances, such
as television sets, keep electrical charges even after they have
been unplugged. Donít use appliances or motors that have gotten wet
unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
Look out for
animals, especially snakes. Small animals that have been flooded
out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or a stick
to poke and turn things over and scare away small animals.
Look before you
step. After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris
including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have
been covered with mud can be very slippery. Even roads may be weak.
Be alert for gas leaks. Use a
flashlight to inspect for damage. Donít smoke or use candles,
lanterns, or open flames unless you know the gas has been turned off
and the area has been ventilated.
Natural & Beneficial Functions of
Floodplain lands and adjacent waters combine to form a complex,
dynamic physical and biological system found nowhere else.
When portions of floodplains are preserved in (or restored to) their
natural state, they provide many benefits to both human and natural
These benefits range from providing aesthetic pleasure to
reducing the number and severity of floods, helping handle storm
water runoff and minimizing non-point water pollution. For
example, by allowing floodwater to slow down, sediments settle out,
thus maintaining water quality. The natural vegetation filters
out impurities and uses excess nutrients.
Such natural processes cost far less money than it would take to
build facilities to correct flood, storm water, water quality and
other community problems.
Natural flood and erosion control
Over the centuries, floodplains develop their own ways to handle
flooding and erosion with natural features that provide floodwater
storage and conveyance, reduce flood velocities and flood peaks, and
Natural controls on flooding and erosion help to maintain water
quality by filtering nutrients and impurities from runoff,
processing organic wastes and moderating temperature fluctuations.
These natural controls also contribute to recharging groundwater
by promoting infiltration and refreshing aquifers, and by reducing
the frequency and duration of low surface flows.
Biologic resources and functions
Floodplains enhance biological productivity by supporting a high
rate of plant growth. This helps to maintain biodiversity and
the integrity of ecosystems.
Floodplains provide excellent habitats for fish and wildlife by
serving as breeding and feeding grounds. They also create and
enhance waterfowl habitats, and help to protect habitats for rare
and endangered species.
In Jefferson County, the chum stock inhabiting the Hood Canal in
the summer is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species
Act. The most important spawning area for the summer chum is the
downstream-most river mile of the Big Quilcene (Ames et al 2000).
Societal resources and functions
People benefit from floodplains through the food they provide,
the recreational opportunities they afford and the scientific
knowledge gained in studying them.
Wild and cultivated products are harvested in floodplains, which
are enhanced agricultural land made rich by sediment deposits.
They provide open space, which may be used to restore and enhance
forest lands, or for recreational opportunities or simple enjoyment
of their aesthetic beauty.
Floodplains provide areas for scientific study and outdoor
education. They contain cultural resources such as historic or
archaeological sites, and thus provide opportunities for
environmental and other kinds of studies.
Floodplains can increase a community's overall quality of life, a
role that often has been undervalued. By transforming
floodplains from problem areas into value-added assets, the
community can improve its quality of life.
For more information on the
relationship between your property and flood hazard areas,
visit the Department of Community
Development (DCD) at 621 Sheridan Street
(Castle Hill Mall, a.k.a. the QFC parking lot), Port Townsend, or
call (360) 379-4450, and ask for the "Planner of the Day" from the
Development Review Division (DRD).
"Planner of the Day" services are
offered from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM during the work week, except
Wednesdays, when the schedule switches to 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM.
For more information about hazard mitigation planning and
emergency management in Jefferson County, visit the
Administrator's webpage and look for "Emergency Management."
For more information about comprehensive floodplain management
planning and key property acquisition, contact
County Natural Resources program.