When the sun is shining and there's hardly a cloud in sight, the possibility of a devastating flood is rarely on anyone's mind.
But it's times like that when people ought to think about what they would do when rivers overflow or storm water fills the streets, according to weather and emergency management experts.
''Now is the time to plan what to do before that severe weather occurs,'' Jeff Zogg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Thursday.
Zogg and representatives of other state and federal agencies visited Fort Dodge Thursday as part of statewide tour to call attention to the threat of flooding and to remind residents about what they can do to prepare for floods.
''It is our goal for residents to learn about preparation efforts they can make on their own to make flood loss less severe,'' said Angel Robinson, a consumer advocate for the Iowa Insurance Division.
Those preparation efforts are ''pretty much common sense,'' said Tony Jorgensen, the Webster County emergency management coordinator.
He said people should remain aware of changing weather conditions and heed watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
Everyone should have a plan to go somewhere else if flooding threatens their home, he added. Elderly and disabled members of the family will need extra help, he said.
Many shelters set up during a disaster do not accept pets, so people should figure out a place to take their pets if they have to evacuate their homes, Jorgensen said.
To reduce property damage, Jorgensen recommends keeping important things off the floor, especially in basements. He said vital documents should be stored in safe deposit boxes.
Flooded roads pose a serious threat to people in vehicles. Zogg said a car can be swept away in 18 to 24 inches of moving water.
The National Weather Service offers this advice for drivers encountering flooded roads: Turn around, don't drown.
In Fort Dodge, the most notorious sites for street flooding are on First Avenue South and 25th Street near Crossroads Mall. Proposals are now being sought from engineering companies interested in designing the repairs needed to prevent that flooding, and the City Council is expected to award a contract for that work next month. Acquisition of any land needed for the work is expected to begin in the fall.
Federal flood help
The National Weather Service issues two different types of flood alerts.
A flood watch means flooding is possible, according to Zogg. A flood warning means flooding is imminent or perhaps already happening.
''That's basically the point where you need to take action,'' Zogg said of flood warnings.
If a flash flood warning is issued, it means that flooding is going to occur quickly, he added.
In the wake of a flood, people will not be able to count on their homeowners insurance policy to help them pay for repairs and replacing property, according to Robinson. She said flooding is an ''explicit exclusion'' from homeowners policies. She said that's because insuring against floods is considered so risky that no private insurance company will do it at a rate that's affordable for most people.
The federal government stepped into that insurance void by creating the National Flood Insurance Program in 1968.
Five more Webster County communities may be entering that program since the latest mapping efforts have revealed that they are in flood plains, according to Ken Bouma, a water quality program planner for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
He said those communities are Badger, Duncombe, Gowrie, Harcourt and Vincent.
According to Bouma, residents in those communities won't be able to get flood insurance if the cities don't join the National Flood Insurance Program. He added that the cities themselves won't be able to get state financial aid in the wake of a flood if they don't join.
However, he said his department makes it simple for the cities to enter the program by providing all the needed documents. He said city officials will just have to fill in the blanks on the paperwork and the City Council will have to pass a resolution.
New flood plain maps have been prepared for Fort Dodge, but they are fairly similar to the current ones, Bouma said.
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org