City leaders warn Ketchum residents to brace for more flooding

Posted at 2:00 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 21:13:37-04

Ketchum city leaders are asking residents and visitors to stay away from Warm Springs Creek, the Big Wood River, and its tributaries due to a threat to public safety and health.

The city will join with community members to provide additional help to residents trying to protect their property by filling and handing out sandbags on Wednesday, May 10th. Last weekend, the city distributed 1,500 sandbags to residents battling rising floodwaters. Another 3,000 bags will be filled tomorrow and available to residents, according to a news release from Ketchum Assistant City Administrator Lisa Enourato.

"We recognize the challenges residents are facing right now, and are taking every possible step to help respond to the threats posed by flooding," City Council President Jim Slanetz said. "We also want our citizens to be cautious and safe and to prepare for even more flooding posed by rising river flows."

The flooding that occurred on May 7th and 8th was a precursor to flooding predicted to occur between now and mid-June.  Residents should continue to prepare for rising waters, officials warned.

City leaders say that many homes in the floodplain have been impacted by floodwaters. So far, there are no mandatory evacuations.

However, Fire Chief Mike Elle is encouraging residents along the floodplain to do some advanced planning -- such as putting together a kit that includes extra clothes, medicines, food and pet supplies for those with dogs or cats. Area residents can find out if their property is in the floodplain by going to:

Elle told Idaho On Your Side, “As the water comes up … the whole river channel is changing. We are seeing erosion everywhere. This is kind of the lull before the storm. I anticipate a very large increase in flow later this month … and I anticipate, towards the first of June, to be in a major flood category.”

Elle said the floodwaters are creating a variety of public safety and health risks. He said residents should avoid going near the river, resist walking and playing in water flowing through city streets, and obey signs posted to close public roads. “The important thing right now is for people to stay out of the water; just avoid it altogether because of the risk it poses to health and safety," Elle said. "The river itself is extremely dangerous and unpredictable every time a tree falls into the current and is carried downstream, creating a potential hazard for roads, bridges and private property."

Water coursing through city streets is eroding the pavement, creating deep holes and cracks along the edges, officials said. There is also a threat of contamination because floodwaters from upstream tributaries may have intermingled with septic systems.

Property owners are also being encouraged to work with city officials on flood mitigation projects.  The city's Planning and Building Department is expediting its permit process for making streambank alterations during the next few weeks.

The city's sandbagging event will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 10, at the Ketchum Street Department, located at 200 Tenth Street.

The city has also posted flooding, public safety information on its website. For more information, you can visit