10 years since the flood of ’08.
By Liz Reimink, Mason County Emergency Management Coordinator.
This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the storms which resulted in Mason County being designated as a disaster area. On June 12, 2008, a severe weather system produced strong winds and up to 11 inches of rain in areas. This storm resulted in approximately 200 road impacts, power outages, significant wind damage, and the activation of the Mason County Emergency Operations Center for five days. Since then, the Mason County Emergency Management Office has continued to improve disaster response capabilities and promote individual preparedness to enhance the resiliency of Mason County.
The June 12, 2008 storm was the first major flooding event to impact the area since the September 1986 flooding, which resulted in the failure of the Hart Dam, and the collapse of a US 31 bridge over the Pentwater River . The June 2008 storm’s flash flooding caused impacts to roads in 13 of 20 jurisdictions and destroyed several major roadways. The Ludington State Park was evacuated due to rising water levels on Hamlin Lake and concerns over the Hamlin Dam. In addition to the flooding issues, the storm also produced an EF0 Tornado in Nordhouse Dune Wilderness and other damage throughout the county. Several other issues with utilities, access, and public health concerns resulted from this storm system. Ultimately, the President declared a major disaster for Mason County and other counties.
To respond to a disaster of this magnitude, almost every emergency response agency was activated and coordinated through the county’s emergency operations center; additionally, mutual aid from across the state was sent to help in the form of Michigan State Police troopers and emergency management personnel from neighboring jurisdictions. The collective response to this incident required hundreds of personnel hours to protect lives and property and millions of dollars to return the county’s infrastructure to normal.
This incident tested the county’s disaster management plans and procedures, and the public’s resilience and recovery capabilities. The Mason County Emergency Management Office and all emergency response agencies have been working hard over the last decade to prepare for future disasters. Numerous exercises and trainings have occurred to train personnel on how to manage large disasters. Agencies have enhanced communication capabilities and equipment that will help document and relay information about a disaster more efficiently. The Emergency Management Office has developed and updated key plans and procedures to incorporate lessons learned and streamline disaster management responsibilities. All in all, our community emergency response agencies are more prepared to deal with future disasters and continuing to prepare every year.
Nevertheless, the county’s preparedness doesn’t solely depend upon the efforts of our emergency response personnel; it is up to each and every citizen, family, and neighborhood to be prepared for a disaster. While news headlines may highlight disasters around the nation, we may have a tendency to become complacent when hurricanes, wildfires, and volcanos don’t happen here. However, June 12th 2008, started as a normal day for all Mason County residents, and by the morning of June 13, some residents found their home isolated by road closures and flood waters.
Residents in flood prone areas should know what to do before, during, and after a flood, but every individual can take steps to prepare for any type of disaster. Three basic steps for preparing for disasters are: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed (www.ready.gov).
- Get A Kit of Emergency Supplies – During a disaster, having essential items on hand or ready to go can save time and decrease panic. As was the case in June 2008, many individuals had to wait hours to days to be able to make it in or out of their homes. Each kit should include basic supplies, such as food, water, and medications, for each individual for at least 3 days. Additional items should be included in your emergency kit based on individual needs.
- Make a Plan for What You Will Do in an Emergency – Planning ahead for disasters can help prepare you and your family on the best actions to take for a given emergency. Develop a family communications plan in case you’re not together when the disaster occurs and normal networks are disabled. Identify locations you can take shelter in or evacuate to if the disaster affects your neighborhood.
- Be Informed About What Might Happen – Knowing how to react to various hazards in increases your preparedness. Before a disaster strikes learn which types of disasters Mason County has experienced before. During a disaster, know how to find official information from emergency officials.
The June 2008 storms overwhelmed many individuals and agencies in Mason County and other parts of Michigan. Even though no fatalities occurred in Mason County, the damage and effects of the storm have impacted our communities. Many residents still remember their homes flooded, or local roads being closed for months awaiting repair. Although the recovery process from this storm has long been completed, the lessons learned from this disaster continue. Disaster preparedness efforts carry on with our emergency responders, and hopefully this anniversary reminds citizens to take actions to prepare as well.