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County braces for possibility of flooding

Gary Kostelecky, Stark County emergency manger, is ordering 10,000 sand bags in preparation for possible spring flooding. Kostelecky said the heavy snow fall the county received this winter may cause problems in the spring.

"It also depends on how fast it melts and how much ice is flowing (in nearby rivers) because ice always creates a jamming situation where water backs up," Kostelecky said, adding the situation is pretty unpredictable right now. "The last significant snow fall that we've had like this was back in '96 and '97. We had quite a bit of flooding at that time."

He said the bags cost between 30 and 35 cents, and if the area does flood, even more sandbags may be needed.

"If we get additional snow, I may have to reorder again," Kostelecky said, adding if it melts slowly, they may not be necessary. "It's difficult to spend a lot of money for something that you really don't have any control over, but we need to have some on hand so that we are prepared should we have a flooding situation."

He said he is most worried about areas near Heart River and Green River.

"The southern part of town where the river flows through is our main concern," Kostelecky said.

He said 40 to 50 households could be damaged if Heart River overflows and several rural properties could be affected if Green River floods.

"I think Patterson Lake and the dike are going to be able to handle the amount of water that comes through -- at least that's what we're hoping," Kostelecky said.

He said the county already has about 15,000 bags filled and 8,000 empty bags in storage. Kostelecky said those bags are always on hand, but the county is preparing to make bags available to Stark County residents.

"We'll try to make as many bags available as necessary," Kostelecky said, adding they likely won't charge for them. "We're going to ration them out, but we'll put out as many as we need to."

The extra bags Kostelecky may order will not be filled by the county and will not be available right away, he said. Those who need the bags will have to pick them up at the Stark County Shop west of the city and fill them themselves, he said.

"I'm not going to give out any bags yet, until we have a better idea of what's going to happen," Kostelecky said.

Insurance issues

County officials are not the only ones bracing for a flood. Scott Karsky from State Farm Insurance said several people are looking into flood insurance.

"We have been getting an unusual amount of calls for flood insurance," Karsky said. "I've probably written one flood policy a year for the last five years and all of a sudden now we've had 10 or 15 quotes on flood insurance."

Those who live near rivers in the area may want to look into flood insurance sooner rather than later. Todd Schweitzer, from American Family Insurance, said it could take up to 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to kick in.

Even if you have flood insurance, it may not cover all damage caused by snowmelt.

Karsky and Schweitzer said flood insurance usually will not cover water seeping into basements if it's from the snow that melted in your yard.

"Unless waters come from escaping the banks of a river or a lake or stream, that's not really a flood," Schweitzer said.

He added those who have snow piled against their homes may want to think about moving it.

"If you have a water tight foundation, you probably won't have a water issue, but if you've got a crack in your foundation and that snow melts, you could get some seepage that could cause a lot of damage," Schweitzer said.