By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
Weekend rains across Central Texas spurred flash flood warnings for the area - the biggest public safety concern for one Bell County official.
"I know it sounds weird with us being in a drought, but due to topography and the type of soil we have, it makes it real easy to have flash floods," said Dennis Baker, the county's emergency management coordinator.
Baker said the county has been flooded at least three times in the past five years, including once in May 2007 that led to a presidential disaster declaration.
"When Tropical Storm Hermine hit two years ago, that's when we got 12 inches of rain in a four-hour period," he said.
That degree of rain and flooding also concerns Harpin Myers, a local trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety. He equated driving through a flash flood with "putting a toothpick in a swimming pool."
"If you can't see the road, the best thing to do is turn around and find a new route," he said.
Drivers need to reduce speed during heavy rain, he added.
The county has taken steps toward mitigating the risks of flash flooding by holding Skywarn training workshops, hosted by the National Weather Service, for storm spotters. The next local Skywarn class is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. March 5 in the Lampasas County Annex.
"(The training) helps people understand how to read the clouds. What the weather service sees on the radar isn't always what's there. Storm spotters are our eyes on the ground," said Baker.
The county also works to remove previously flooded homes through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The owner gets fair-market value, the structure is removed and it goes on the planning rolls as a no-build zone," said Baker.
For personal preparedness, Baker said residents should go to www.ready.gov, a FEMA-run website that advises people on how to plan for disasters.
"It talks about making a plan on where you're going to meet and how you're going to communicate," he said. "Make a plan, get a kit and keep informed and watch the weather."
Contact Sean Wardwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.
Emergency preparedness kit
Gather these supplies to create a basic disaster kit:
1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.
At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert.
Whistle to signal for help.
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties.
Wrench or pliers.
Manual can opener.
Cellphone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.