EMA updates county flood warning awareness

Even minor flooding and inclement weather is cause for concern for many locals, depending on their locations throughout the county. The snow and rain weather conditions this past month brought the question to county officials — how prepared is Auglaize County for a flood?

Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency is in the process of better preparing its citizens during emergency situations.

Auglaize EMA Director Troy Anderson said keeping up-to-date on current weather conditions and utilizing appropriate technology to alert citizens is a continuous process.

Anderson said he has implemented a new feature on Google Maps that will alert citizens of potentially dangerous flooding conditions.

In the past, the EMA depended on outside sources to receive information on rainfall and snow melt, which helps the county know wether to expect floods.

Now, local volunteers are measuring the rainfall and snowmelt amounts to more accurately predict potential flood conditions in the county. The information shows the EMA which areas in the county receive greater rainfall than others — New Bremen to Goshen Township has been a band of the heaviest rainfall.

"We really didn't have the good information — now, I feel confident that we do," Anderson said.

The collected information helped the EMA stay aware of the recent flood status, and Anderson said he sent constant updates to the public through his website and Facebook page.

"Before we even got any rain, we already had the equivalent of a half inch of rain throughout the county," Anderson said about the measured snowmelt.

After the half inch of snowmelt came the 4.2-3.6 inches of rainfall throughout the county, causing flooding in multiple areas.

This type of information will better prepare officials to take action based on the damage that, that particular amount of rainfall caused during other episodes of flooding.

"I feel a lot better because of this, but it takes the volunteers to do it," Anderson said.

The EMA also measures the flood levels in the Auglaize River to watch for potential flooding in the area.

The data collected from each measurement has recently been put into a map that helps keep the public up-to-date on the current status of the river. Viewers can see whether the levels have changed from normal "green" levels, to "threat" levels, yellow being the least, and then orange, red and purple.

Anderson said this will allow officials to take action before flooding occurs, rather than waiting for residents to call, notifying them of the floods.

During the elevated levels last week, Anderson posted this map on the "Auglaize EMA" Facebook page so his followers could see the affects the rainfall had on both the Auglaize River in Wapakoneta and the St. Marys River.

"We were planning on putting this in on the first of the year," Anderson said, "but because of the storm systems that we were already monitoring, we knew there was already going to be a storm about a week out. So, we wanted to see how this system was going to work — what better way to test it than a real-world event?"

Anderson said the feedback from the map was positive, with 1,500 linked into the page. The map was also linked to the county EMA website: auglaizecounty.org/ema.

Although currently the EMA only posts the maps during expected flood conditions, Anderson said in the future he hopes to update the river status twice daily and give the public a direct link to the map.

Also, Anderson is making plans to implement an electronic gauge reader that will assist in measuring the river flood level. This reader will then update the levels automatically, which Anderson now has to input manually. That information will then be automatically transferred to the map and residents' devices.

Anderson said he believes the system will most likely be implemented in Wapakoneta by the end of the summer in 2014.