A new flood warning system will give residents of a water-weary town in northwest Ohio an advance warning the next time the Blanchard River spills over its banks.
Residents of Ottawa in Putnam County will be able to receive text alerts from the system that will be able to send out warnings alert at least 24 hours before a flood hits.
The $200,000 warning system will pay for itself because it will give people in the Putnam County town more time to protect their belongings, said Scott Jackson, a deputy director with the U.S. Geological Survey, which helped develop the system.
“People can help themselves to prepare,” he said. “They will have more time to move items such as cars and furniture out of the flood area.”
The estimated reduction in flood damage costs when there is a 24-hour advance notice is about 30 percent, he said.
Flood prevention has become a top priority along the Blanchard River where five major floods since 2007 have soaked the towns of Findlay and Ottawa.
The worst damage came in August 2007 when flooding caused more than $100 million in damage in Findlay and an estimated $12 million in damage in Ottawa.
Findlay received a warning system three years ago.
The cost of the system in now is being paid for by the town, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It includes three stream gauges to monitor water flow and levels.
“We take lessons from past floods, integrate them with detailed mapping, then bring the community and outside agencies together to improve our flood warnings capabilities,” said Trent Schade, a hydrologist with the weather service.
A map of the area will give officials a better idea of what areas will be under water as the water rises. Residents and business owners will be able to see the maps on the Internet.
“They help people visualize which areas will likely be flooded as the stage gets higher,” said Matt Whitehead, a Geological Survey hydrologist.
Other efforts to find ways to control flooding have been going on for several years, but the slowness of federally required flood studies and the uncertainty over how long it will take to build flood-control projects have led to frustration.
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