Schools take threat of flood seriously
Kootenai Valley Christian School second-grade teacher Linda Colson gathers her students, who were instructed to grab their coats and head to the gymnasium for a flood drill.
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
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
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