Feds Improve Flood Prediction in Washington State

November 4, 2009

Federal weather officials are beefing up their storm detection abilities in the Green River basin south of Seattle in hopes of better predicting flood threats, according to an article in the Seattle Times.

Next month, the National Weather Service will put in a system that measures water vapor and wind speed several miles above the surface of the earth. The system should improve forecasters’ ability to predict heavy rains and storms 24 hours in advance. The system is already in use in California, the newspaper said.

Fourteen new rain gauges are also being put into place.

The new capabilities should allow the Army Corps of Engineers to better control the amount of water behind the weakened Howard Hanson Dam.

An abutment on the dam was damaged last winter and officials have warned that if the water level behind the dam gets too high they may have to release water, perhaps enough to cause serious flooding.

State Insurance Commissioner Mark Kreidler has said he is worried that insurance companies may be planning to deny flooding claims, should they be made, because the cause will have been an act of government.

There have also been concerns that companies are no longer renewing policies or selling flood coverage in the area, and Kreidler has asked the legislature for the authority to create a joint underwriting association. Federal flood coverage is still available, but it only covers businesses up to $500,000 for a building and the same amount for its contents, Kreidler has said.

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