City Government

Flood First Sandbags Second

Mike Baker is a 46 year resident of N. 9th in Boise and has seen his property flooded at least three times by runnoff from Hulls Gulch.

When a Boy Scout left him a brochure urging him to “be prepared” in the event of flood, Mike took the message from Ada County Emergency Management office to heart.

He decided a supply of sandbags would be a good idea to divert any heavy runoff from Hulls Gulch caused by near record snow pack in the event of flood. “We used to just go down to the fire station and they had them there,” noted Mike.

He called the ACEM office and they suggested he buy the bags at Zamzows or D&B Supply.. He called Boise City Public works they also suggested the feed stores, he tried the Ada County Highway District and you guessed it, ZAMZOWS! He ended up at the Ada County Commishes and they told him they serve only “unincorporated Ada County” and since he lived in the city he needed to look elsewhere–like Zamzows or D&B.

Every government office either sent him to another office or the retailers.

Finally he got a call from the ACEM telling him sandbags would be supplied if there was a flood–but not before.

Mike–and the GUARDIAN–think it would make sense to get some of the guys and gals wearing those fashionable orange jumpsuits with “INMATE” on the back to fill and stack sandbags on pallets for quick delivery wherever they are needed BEFORE there is a flood.

As a veteran of Vietnam bunkers and the Teton Flood, the GUARDIAN can offer some hints on sandbagging:

–Easy way to fill them is at the end of a cement truck chute filled with sand, bucket brigade fashion.

–Next best is any kind of chute on an angle allowing the bags to be filled at the bottom. It beats putting shovels to the bags which cause chopped fingers if the bags are held and it is really SLOW.

–Fill the bags only half full so they can be flattened and stacked where needed.

Mike, 62, notes the warning sirens work really well when they are tested, but what do you do when the sirens sound for real and there are no bags or sand to protect property? Our guess is they need a planning meeting and some coordinating sessions.

Officials urge folks to purchase federal flood insurance and which is truly good advice–especially if they can’t seem to get the sandbag issue cured prior to a flood.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. sam the sham
    Mar 24, 2008, 10:22 pm

    Have you checked with Zamzow’s or D&B to be certain that Ada County has not already hired out the people in the jumpsuits have not already been hired out to fill their sandbags?
    It could be……

    Here on the Bench we still have plenty of sand on our back streets. It appears that the street sweepers are busy elsewhere. So if anyone needs sand, we have it up here where we no longer need it for the snow (we got it after the Northend did). Ah, the very special Northend.

  2. Well! I see the baboon and his band of trained chimps are in rare form once again! God forbid, we should have anyone desire to “be prepared”. Don’t they realize that city government isn’t prepared to help the citizenry plan for anything? Couple that with the inability to respond in an emergency, and we have the real purpose of government. “Just keep them so confused, they may not realize how inept we really are!”
    Helluva way to run a railroad!

  3. Maybe the Boy Scout who left the brochure could tell officials about the idea of “Be prepared.”
    It’s a good motto and a good idea — but many things including this one indicate most officials have never heard of it.

    Glad they don’t run the police department — they’d have the cops all sitting in the station, saying we’ll send them out only after there’s a wreck.


  4. According to the Ada County Flood Response Plan, sandbagging of private property is up to the owner. (And so is living near a drainage.)

    I trust we will all assist in filling bags from local stockpile if flooding is severe and something bigger than a lawn & more valuable than a hedge is at risk. (The plan states that there will be stockpiles, with a map and that employees from certain agencies will do this work if flooding is severe enough.)

    While seems unreasonable to suggest Mike buy sandbags online, buy sand locally, and find ways to fill them, did he try D&B and Zamzows? I bet D&B has them right now. There appear to be many online sources as well.

    How about Mike and any concerned neighbors go in on a bag order and have a sandbagging party. If they dump the bags out after use & dry them out, they should be OK to use again. I don’t have a suggestion as to what to do with the sand… perhaps some hardening of another kind is in order, if the location really does flood as often at he said in the call log. (Every 3-5 years.) I wonder what action he took 3-5 years ago?

    Dave, your advice on how to fill a bag is good; better than the Flood Response Plan’s, which suggests the finger-slicing, slow-and-steady-as-the-water-rushes-around-you method. I have used the chute method.

  5. People who live in city limits pay just as much to the County as those who don’t. It’s a good argument for bumping a lot of services to the County level (after reforming the way County government is organized.

  6. With all due respect Wade, I think it is understandable that someone might be a little “gun shy” with regard to the “plan”. Given how well these plans have worked in the past. Of course, this response fits right in with the way the city does things. They have failed to plan for traffic, sewers, building, and transit. (among many other things) I guess it really is not fair to expect them to be “pro-active” on anything!

  7. Eric,
    Yah, people living inside city limits pay just as much to the county as those living out of a city’s limits – but these people ALSO pay money to the city. I don’t understand why you’re criticizing the county’s structure and roles when you’re letting city officials sidle away with thier (more than fair) share of the property taxes…without any share of the responsibility.

  8. Hi, Ellie..

    If the County furnishes a service to unincorporated areas, but not to City dwellers, it’s unfair. Why should City dwellers pay the County and not get the same service? The fact that they pay the City,too, makes it even more unfair. The case under discussion here sounds like the worst-case scenario. You pay the County and can’t get the service, but the City won’t do it either. As to the re-organization, I don’t know why the County needs 3 full-time Commissioners. Why not a full-time administrator and a part-time commissioner? It would require amending the Constitution. I just don’t think they are very efficient now.. and if we changed that, they could perform some services for all County residents and leave service specific to cities with the City government.

    EDITOR NOTE–Actually Eric, the cosntitution ALLOWS the counties to select their own form of government when it comes to commisshes.

  9. Wade-Your comments about “sandbagging of private property is up to the owner. (And so is living near a drainage.)” is straight on. Why is it that everyone gets all up in arms about something like this when it is up to the property owner, not the government, to protect their property?

    This goes to a much larger issue, I beleive. We want the government to step in only when it is convenient, but otherwise stay the heck away. I grow tired of homeowners that moan and groan about a “lack of gov’t response” when they build their homes in a flood plain (or in some cases, right along the freak’n banks of the river. aka home owners on the Boise River in Eagle). Protect me, my family, and my home but only on my terms and only when it does not force me to give up any conveniences. That seems to be the attitude these days….

  10. I don’t know why the city or the county would provide sandbags. Shouldn’t it be the property owners responsibility? Maybe the county should provide me with rock salt for my driveway?

  11. I also live in the sacred (?) Northend, and the last time a few years ago that mass flooding from the Front was in the offing, the radio was full of hysteria about banks of dirt and water rushing down the gulches and engulfing anyone who didn’t sandbag their homes. I didn’t believe it, so I walked my streets, noting carefully the tilts and directions of downhill on all nearby streets in relation to the Front, and realised that luckily where I am it won’t flood. 15th St might get a deluge, part of which might run west along side streets that are below my street. Meanwhile, that last time my son sandbagged the basement vents and now they are stopped up by disintegrating sandbags & sand, and I’m too old to get it out.
    If you live in the Northend, walk your streets and check out the tilt directions in relation to the gulches. You might not need flood insurance, or sandbags.

  12. Toot the Horns, Barney!
    Mar 25, 2008, 4:23 pm

    Thank god we have the Flood Alert Sirens

    When they sound we will know exactly when to be helpless.

  13. When I lived just off Hill Road and Catalpa a number of years ago, my lender wanted me to carry flood insurance just in case loads of water might come thundering down from the hills behind Hillside Junior High. I called a surveyor friend of mine. He came over and determined that our property was enough above grade that flooding was not a problem. No flood insurance needed, but out the cost of a case of beer. 🙂

    I agree with Jo. If your house is in a hollow or at the end of a long slope from a drainage from the foothills you should have sandbags available. Your mortgage company should have advised you if you need flood insurance but you should also check with your title insurance company to see what kind of flood plain you may be in. These flood plains do change from time to time, usually due to building upstream. (Thanks you guys for building upstream and thanks to Planning and Zoning for allowing it.)

  14. It is rediculous to expect our city, county, state, or federal government to pay for and provide material to protect your home. Especially if you know in advance that something like a flood could happen.

    If you purchase the home, you assume all the risk that goes along with it. If you didn’t research the possibility of flooding when you bought it, that is your problem.

    This is exactly like the folks down at Eagle Island complaining about the potential flooding a few years back. YOU BOUGHT A HOUSE NEXT TO THE RIVER!!! What do you expect.

    I am for the government providing emergency relief when it is necessary. Outside of that “Buyer Beware.”

  15. Robert Bennett
    Mar 26, 2008, 10:21 am

    I don’t understand why the public should provide a homeowner with sandbags. Should we also provide windows to keep the rain out when the water is trying to enter a residence at chest level?

    My family lives on the bench precisely because the north end is a flood plain. We understand that it floods in those sorts of areas, so we didn’t buy down there.

    Also, if it has flooded three times in the past, then where are the sandbags from those times? Did the sand go bad? Can sandbags only be used once? I don’t know, simply because it doesn’t flood up here, so I have no sandbag experience.

  16. Sandbags?? Sheesh! The area obviously needs better storm drains if this is a regular problem.

  17. sam the sham
    Mar 26, 2008, 11:52 pm

    Birds of a feather….
    Where did the folks in Eagle, living (like idiots) on the flood plane next to the Boise River get their sand bags last spring? People choose to live where they do for various reasons. Buck up and get your own bags, fill them with sand – or go to Zamzows and pay for them.
    I don’t choose to pay for your poor choice in where you put your house or family. buck up…i’m not your mom.

  18. Well, while we are asking for everything… I would like a Fire Engine in my yard during fire season, just in case. Think that could happen?

  19. Before everyone unloads on Mike remember he was responding to a brochure from the county telling him to BE PREPARED. Instead of buying GOVERNMENT flood insurance and just sitting by idly waiting to collect, he was attempting to be proactive.

    I think the G-Man was trying to show that sandbags would be issued to anyone, but only “in the event of flood,” not earlier as a prophylactic. (a preventative measure for you non-library types)

  20. This policy kinda goes hand in hand with the local snow removal policy on ACHD owned streets. Or lack there of.

  21. Yeah, why should the city and/or county help with sandbags?
    Well, for one thing, our officials are good at sandbagging.
    For another, while I agree that folks who build or buy houses on an island or right on the river bank probably oughta be washed away, lots of places now are subject to flooding that wouldn’t be if the city and county hadn’t permitted lots of changes in the foothills and elsewhere that changed the flow.

    As for homeowners being entirely responsible for their own safety — well, I’m kinda glad various cities, counties etc. have fire departments, police officers, HAZMAT teams etc. that will help people protect themselves and their homes.

    Heck, if the — er, whoever our expected invaders are, now that the USSR is kaput — invade us, I reckon I’d be glad we have an Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, Air National Guard, the various Reserves, etc., to turn the flood of baddies before they get to my house — and yours.

    Water floods, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and whatever can threaten anyone, and it’s not too surprising that even those of us who feel we should protect our own homes and families are mighty glad to have the help of these various government services when the danger gets close to home.
    Oh, and we do pay for them, you know, whether we use them or not.

  22. Today the Big Green Movement is having a special ritual in cities around the world where everybody turns off all the lights and computers. For the Earth, of course.

    They don’t have to stop driving, however. I wonder if there will be many accidents when motorists off their headlights.

    They will be doing for an hour a year, what orthodox Jews do for a whole day every week. Isn’t it because of one of the 10 Commandments?

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