FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Though Kentucky has taken great strides in reducing its flood damages over the years, Mother Nature can never be completely tamed. As spring brings a new flood season, Kentuckians should be prepared for the unexpected.
Truly a river state, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has 89,000 miles of rivers and streams, the most of any state besides Alaska. These waterways, together with many lakes and dams, create the most total shoreline of any state besides Florida. And with the beauty comes some risk.
Whether in the slow, creeping river-basin floods that strike low-lying areas along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers or the mountain flashfloods of Appalachia, Kentucky has learned that the waters can rage. In response, federal, state and local initiatives have reduced the flood risk-ranging from flood walls on the Big Sandy at the West Virginia line to levees on the Mississippi in the west. From Pendleton County in the north to Christian County in the south, and throughout Kentucky, local governments have purchased and removed structures that were repeatedly flooded, using grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, working with the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.
But this does not keep rain from falling or snow from melting. The danger of flooding is a Kentucky constant, and calls for planning and foresight at the individual level as well as on the community level. Kentucky has had 10 federally declared disasters involving flooding in the past 10 years. Especially serious floods come every two to three years.
The first step for homeowners is to carry flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program is a federal initiative but its policies are sold by local commercial agents. Out of 353 Kentucky communities and counties, 325 participate in the NFIP, making this insurance available to residents whether they live in a high-risk area or on higher ground.
And floods can happen nearly anywhere. It's no consolation to be told that your home was ruined by a "100-year flood." Flukes of nature are not really so rare, and levees can be overtopped. More than a quarter of all flood insurance claims come from places not considered to be special flood hazard areas.
The next two steps in flood preparedness are more personal: Make a plan of what your family will do if a flood disrupts your customary support system. To help implement that plan, keep an emergency kit stocked with a flashlight, emergency phone numbers, contact information for relatives and friends and enough food and water to get you through two or three days.
The wild beauty of the river state helped attract its first settlers. Like them, we need to maintain a healthy respect for what Mother Nature can do.
For help the aftermath of a flood: www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/preparation_recovery/after_a_flood.jsp
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation, to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.