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Flooding in the Wood River Valley-What You Need to Know
Thursday, April 27, 2023


The City of Ketchum will have a $19,000 drone to survey expected flooding this year.

The drone, which was approved by the City Council on Monday, will be able to survey the extent of flooding and assist first responders with rescue operations. It could, for instance assist swift water rescuers by following someone who is washed downstream.

Right now, the National Weather Service out of Pocatello is predicting that the peak flow on the Big Wood and other rivers in the Wood River Valley could occur in early June. But that will depend on whether temperatures remain unseasonably cool over the next few weeks.

Snowpack in the Big Wood Basin is 162 percent of average—half of the 300-plus percent of average in the Southern Sierra Mountains.

The Wood River Valley has already dodged the flooding that occurred in cities and neighborhoods up and down the valley when a February rain in 2017 melted snow and filled streets with water.

Those making flood presentations this week in Ketchum, Hailey and Carey said that properties that experienced flooding in spring 2017 amidst a higher snowpack than this year will likely be the first to experience flooding this year if it occurs.

That includes the Northwood, Warm Springs and West Ketchum neighborhoods in Ketchum; homes along the river in Gimlet, and the Della View subdivision in Hailey, including Heagle Park, the Draper Preserve, War Eagle Drive and Cedar Street, as well as Woodside Boulevard and Croy Street.

Areas of concern in Sun Valley include properties along Trail Creek, including the Sun Valley Community School; Elkhorn Creek, foothills streams, irrigation channels and aesthetic water features.

More capacity has been added to the Sun Valley Lake dam since 2017 so that it can receive more overflow before water begins spilling over the dam, according to Sun Valley’s flood spokesperson Kristine Hilt.

Here are some things you need to know:

  • A FLOOD WATCH indicates that flooding is possible. A FLOOD AVISORY means there could be possible flooding but is not expected to be severe enough for a warning. A FLOOD WARNING indicates that flooding is occurring or about to happen. Those who could be affected should move to higher ground.

    Determine if your property is located in the flood plain.

    Clear drainage channels of debris. Move or anchor outdoor furniture. Stock up on emergency supplies, such as non-perishable food water, batteries and flashlights. Charge cell phones. Develop an evacuation plan, keeping in mind that pets may be panicked. Take inventory of items in home for potential insurance claims, and move valuables to higher areas of the dwelling. Sign up for Blaine County CodeRed.


    Visit  for information. Disconnect utilities and appliances if it’s safe to do so. Fill tubs, sinks and jugs with water in case water becomes contaminated. Obey evacuation orders.


    Residents are encouraged to register for local emergency alerts, such as Blaine County CodeRed at

    “READY” means have an evacuation plan and prepare an emergency go kit.

    “SET” means Be alert, packed up and ready to go. Consider relocating to a safer area.

    “GO” means evacuate now. Police will ask residents to leave an area if they cannot protect the roads. They will go door to door if they can. They will also send out CodeRed on the new IPAWS emergency system.

    The Blaine County Sheriff’s Department will issue mandatory evacuations if water covers an entire roadway, said Chris Corwin, Blaine County Disaster Services coordinator.

  • DON’T DRIVE OR WALK through flood water--a vehicle was swept away on Magic Reservoir Road during the last flood.

    Six inches of fast-moving water can sweep a pedestrian away. Eighteen to 24 inches of fast-moving water can carry away most large SUVs and trucks. It takes less than that to sweep away smaller cars.

    Ditto for mud flows. Debris flows can travel faster than 20 miles per hour. Don’t try to outrun it. Instead, climb to higher ground.

    Avoid basements and crawlspaces, and be careful around combustible engines placed in those areas  that can spew carbon dioxide. A Ketchum landscaper died in a flooded basement north of Ketchum in 2017.

  • FLOOD INSURANCE does not become effective until 30 days after purchase. To learn more, go to or call your local insurance agent. Just one inch of water can cost more than $25,000 in damage to a home, according to national averages.

    Flood elevation certifications can tell a property’s elevation compared to estimated height flood waters will reach in a major flood It provides a true picture of the flood risk and the cost of flood insurance premium. You can get it by contacting your local flood plain manager.


    KETCHUM—Adam Crutcher at 208-806-7008

    SUN VALLEY—Brittany Skelton at 208-622-4438

    BLAINE COUNTY—Kristine Hilt at 208-788-5570

    HAILEY--Jessica Parker at 208-788-9815, extension 2027, and Robyn Davis at 208-788-9815, extension 2015.

  • SANDBAGGING and other protective devices. To protect your property with sandbags or water bladders, you must secure the necessary permits and follow rules and regulations governing how you protect your structure.

    They cannot be placed on your property boundaries, pushing water down the road to someone else. Place them closer to your home, allowing your lawn to naturally absorb the water.

    Sandbags, aqua dams and water bladders must be placed within 10 feet of your structure if you live in Blaine County. They must be installed within 6 feet of a dwelling if you live in Ketchum, Sun Valley or Hailey.

    The City of Ketchum is providing sandbags for its residents at its Streets Department at 200 10th St. And Hailey has designated two stations at Silver Star and War Eagle Drive and on the southeast corner of Robin Hood Drive for the 2,000 bags it plans to procure.

    Ketchum, Sun Valley and the county also have flood resource pages on their websites saying where sandbags and other water protection devices can be purchased.

    Neither city nor county will sandbag private homes and businesses, nor will they provide pumping. But the Army Corps of Engineers has information and YouTube videos instructing in the art of sandbagging. Residents are, for instance, encouraged to wear life preservers if they’re sandbagging in water.

    Ketchum residents should fill out an Emergency Floor Protection application available at before sandbagging. It’s primarily designed so that Ketchum officials can follow up after flooding to make sure sandbags are removed. Sandbags must be removed within 60 days of flooding.

  • ELEVATE OR ANCHOR MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT, such as propane tanks, so they don’t float down the river or discharge hazardous materials in the river. Officials recommend homeowners purchase battery-operated sump pumps—in 2017 there was a lot of flooding in crawlspaces.

    Do not pump water onto roadway, only onto your own yard, so it doesn’t affect downstream neighbors.


    Do not use electricity in a flooded home. Idaho Power will turn power off in neighborhoods where water begins to cover their green electrical boxes. This could impact electricity to the entire neighborhood, not just the affected homeowner. 

    The Warm Springs area in Ketchum is one area that’s particularly problematic in that there’s only one gas shutoff for the entire area. So, if it gets to that point, there will be a lot of people shut down. Officials say Gimlet along the river tend to go underwater sooner than other areas so residents there may not know their electricity has been turned off until they try it and can’t turn it on.

    One resident protected his electrical box during the 2017 flood by sandbagging around it.

    Homeowners will be required to have an electrical inspection if the water reaches the first floor of a  home before the power can be restored.

    Call Idaho Power with questions at 1-800-488-6151. Call Intermountain Gas at 1-800-548-3679 if you smell gas so they can turn off it off.

    The Blaine County Sheriff’s Department will attempt to announce emergency shutoffs on its social media at


    The stream gauge near the Bullion Street bridge in Hailey recorded 7.7 feet at the peak of the 2017 flood. The river overflows its natural banks at 6 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The official flood stage in Hailey is 3,500 cubic feet per second.


    Homeowners performing their own emergency work in the Big Wood River and other streams is discouraged because of the lasting repercussions it has on the river and fish—a little bit can do a lot of damage. Any in-stream work requires a special permit.

    To seek a permit, call Blaine County at 208-788-5570, the City of Ketchum at 726-7801, the City of Sun Valley at 208-622-4438. Hailey contacts include Jessica Parker at 208-788-9815, extension 2027, and Robyn Davis at 208-788-9815, extension 2015. After hours call 208-481-0433.

  • Sun Valley officials say they plan to monitor bridges and culverts daily in the event of rapid warmup or rain-on-snow events. Residents can sign up for email alerts from the city at
  • The City of Ketchum will headquarter its incident response team at the Ketchum Fire Department, should flooding necessitate that kind of response. It will also monitor flooding regularly should a threat appear via its new drone. Keep abreast of information at
  • Follow Hailey updates at

UPCOMING FLOOD PREPAREDNESS MEETING—In anticipation of flooding later this spring, the City of Hailey will have a second flood preparedness meeting at 5:30 p.m. May 3 at Hailey City Hall. The meeting can be watched virtually at It also can be viewed using a phone. Access Code: 507-079-749. Install the app at


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