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Schools take threat of flood seriously

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| February 17, 2011 10:59 AM

photo

Kootenai Valley Christian School administrator Myresa Boulware initiates a schoolwide drill Wednesday morning to prepare for the potential failure of Flower Creek Dam.

Kootenai Valley Christian School

administrator Myresa Boulware hustled down a hallway of classrooms

Wednesday morning while blowing a whistle.

Students, preschool through eighth

grade, rose from their seats after teachers informed them that a

flood drill had begun.

Since an engineering firm reported last

month that the nearby Flower Creek Dam is not structurally sound,

Libby schools have begun preparing students and staff for the dam’s

potential failure.

The surge would come fast and flood

city streets in up to 5 feet of water, according to engineer

estimates. Within hours the level would fall back down as water

drains into Kootenai River.

Because there is currently no early

warning system at the dam, schools would most-likely not have

enough time to leave the building, according to Vic White, director

of the Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency. The dam’s

failure would not endanger students’ lives as long as they are kept

inside away from the surge’s force, he said.

“The idea is to ride out the initial

inundation of the water coming through because it’s going to drain

real fast,” White said. “Just to ride it out so nobody gets swept

away or no logs or debris comes in through the window and hurts

someone.”

During Wednesday’s drill, KVCS students

grabbed their coats and headed to the gymnasium – a large enough

space for the classes to gather and an area with limited access for

water to come in.

Asa Wood Elementary has carried out a

similar drill, but students gathered on the gym’s elevated stage.

The middle and high schools have also formed emergency plans and

drills, White said.

Seventh- and eighth-grade KVCS students

carried simulated sandbags – small, rolled up rugs – and placed

them at the foot of each door inside the gym.

In a real emergency, schools would also

have a stash of snacks and water to tide over students and staff

until emergency services could get to them, White said. The

principal would have a kit containing emergency phone numbers and

information concerning how to reunify students with parents.

Multiple flashlights would also be

important, KVCS teachers learned on Wednesday. With the possibility

of electricity being cut to the building, the drill was performed

in the dark gymnasium. For a moment, a teacher thought she was

missing a student, but Boulware – who carried the sole flashlight –

quickly spotted the child.

White guesses that the city will

probably install an early warning system once it gets a report from

the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation

concerning the dam.

If schools have enough time for

evacuation, KVCS plans to transport its students to Libby Christian

Church.