Healthy Tahoe: Stay safe, informed about flooding

April Boyde
April Boyde

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and mountain communities, especially those in or around burn scars from recent fires, are at heightened risk. Residents and visitors are urged to consider safety preparedness measures as major atmospheric river activity, or wet storms, continue to move toward our region. 

The first step in preparedness is to stay informed about upcoming weather activity. The National Weather Service is a renowned resource for information and data on incoming snow and rain events. When the forecast includes “strong atmospheric river” it means heavy rainfall may fall across the region, which may result in flooding. Flooding threat is heightened in mountain towns due to existing snow and ice on the ground, plus streams and river basins that are already elevated after numerous storms. 

Understand how a particular forecast can impact your home or neighborhood. Does your home sit in a wind drift? Is your home located near a river or meadow? Is there evidence of past flooding in your home? To learn if your home or business is in a flood plain or historic localized flooding area, visit the City of South Lake Tahoe’s interactive map at

Just as a snow forecast may trigger community members to take certain preparedness measures such as putting on winter tires early-season, fueling up their snow blowers, or turning on heat tape, an atmospheric river forecast should trigger readiness measures for flooding.

FEMA suggests making a plan for your household, including your pets, so that you and your family know what to do, where to go, and what you will need to protect yourselves from flooding. Learn and practice evacuation routes, shelter plans, and flash flood response. Gather supplies, including non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and water for several days, in case you must leave immediately or if services are cut off in your area.

Check your City’s official media platforms for information on organizations and businesses that may be providing sandbags. Sandbags, when filled and stacked properly, are effective at holding back flood-water. They are often provided at no cost. Be prepared to bring a shovel and somebody to assist you, and sandbags can be heavy when filled properly. 

In South Lake Tahoe, Fire Station 3, located 2101 Lake Tahoe Blvd. provides shovels and sandbags behind the fire station. Shovels are limited, so you are encouraged to bring your own. In addition, the Search & Rescue Building at 1834 Santa Fe Rd. in South Lake Tahoe provides sandbags; patrons are encouraged to bring a shovel for loading bags.

Your City may also have information on warming stations/ shelters as well as emergency alerts. Community members and visitors of South Lake Tahoe are encouraged to reference the City of South Lake Tahoe’s website, Facebook page, and sign-up for City Alert Notifications by visiting, or texting your zip code to 38276. 

If you are at risk, don’t wait for flooding to happen. Prepare now, and ensure that your family and home remains safe during extreme winter conditions. 

April Boyde is the Safety Officer with Barton Health. To learn more about flooding and preparedness, visit If you are experiencing a medical emergency due to weather or flooding, call 911.

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