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Hill, Blaine county mitigation plan drafts up for comment

 


About 15 people attended a meeting in Havre Tuesday to hear about possible updates to a plan to prepare for disasters in the region.

Daphne Digrindakis, a contractor for the company working on an update to the pre-disaster mitigation plans for Blaine and Hill counties, Tetra Tech Inc., spoke on potential hazards the county, including the incorporated communities of Havre and Hingham, may face in the future.

Digrindakis held a meeting in Chinook Monday to update Blaine County residents on the draft of that county’s plan.

Under federal regulations, the counties’ pre-disaster mitigation plans — plans on how to reduce the impact of future disasters — must be updated regularly for the counties to be eligible for federal disaster funds.

The region has been declared a federal disaster area due to flooding three times in the last eight years, in 2010, 2011 and 2013, and a request for a disaster declaration due to this year’s flooding is pending.

Tetra Tech is a U.S. consulting and engineering firm that handles tasks including updating mitigation plans. Digrindakis said this was her third time working with Hill County on a mitigation plan.  

The plans must be updated every five years and after the drafts are approved they will be submitted to Montana Disaster and Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The draft has 30 days from Tuesday — 30 days from Monday for the Blaine County plan — for a review period before the document is approved, and Digrindakis encouraged everyone to look at the document and familiarize themselves with the mitigation plan.

Digrindakis said her and her team’s approach was to review each section of the 2012 Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan; look into implementing planning processes for public involvement; review plans and studies; update hazard profiles and identify any new hazards to include in the plan; update the list of critical facilities; complete a new risk assessment; update mitigation goals, objectives and projects; complete a capability assessment; review plan-maintenance procedures; and formally adopt the plan.

Cyber security is an addition to the plan, she added.

Unlike prior plans, the list of critical facilities will not include locations, for security and safety reasons.

In reviewing, ranking and identifying hazards, data was fed through a matrix to calculate which disasters Havre is prone to experience.

From most likely to least likely the list is severe weather and drought; transportation accidents and hazmat incidents; flooding and dam or levee failure; wildfires; structural fires; communicable diseases; terrorism, violence, civil unrest and cyber security; and landslide or land slippage.

Blaine County’s risk hazard ranking was, from greatest to least, wildfires; flooding; severe weather; transportation accidents; hazardous material incidents; drought; dam failure; and terrorism, violence, civil unrest and cyber security.

Blaine County is both a high-risk area for wildfires and flooding.

Some mitigation procedures are uniform across the country for some threats such as communicable diseases, terrorism, violence, civil unrest and cyber security, Digrindakis said.

Severe weather took priority in Hill County due to 142 damaging events over the past 57 years, with $12 million in damages and $1.2 billion in property exposures, not factoring in insurance claims, she said.

To estimate the economic loss from drought, Digrindakis said, the plan will use 2010 — a good year — as a control compared to five years of severe drought. That estimate will help calculate if the county experienced a bad drought again.

The strategy for severe weather and drought includes having a Montana Department of Transportation guide book on winter weather survival available for distribution and to continue to participate in the National Weather Service Storm Ready Community Program.

She added that part of the strategy is to promote National Weather Service severe weather spotter training program and consider reinstating the county drought committee, in addition to other plans.

Another item that came up during the meeting was repairing the Cottonwood Bridge north of Havre in a strategy to mitigate flooding and dam or levee failures. Maintenance on the Milk River dike drainage system should be performed for the same reason.

Digrindakis said she also suggests updating the sirens in Hingham and updating or replacing radios for emergency responders including jurisdictional agencies.

The draft documents are available for review online at https://countypdm.com/. For the Hill County document click on the Hill County tab and enter “Havre” to access the draft plan.

For Blaine County click on the Blaine County tab and enter “Chinook.”

 

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