August 6, 2013

Weather-related issues - from hail and high winds to severe winter storms - emerged as the leading threats to Carroll County in the draft Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan now under review by the state and federal government.

All of those weather incidents were deemed "highly likely" in the plan - meaning the events are probable within the next year.

The plan, involving numerous meetings with city, county, law enforcement, fire department volunteers, public works and elected officials from the county and its cities, also addressed more remote challenges for county, such as terrorist activity, a disease epidemic and potential fallout from a Nebraska nuclear power plant.

Two highlights on the action plan: development of "safe rooms" in area schools and the construction of a second overpass of the Union Pacific Railroad lines in Carroll. Those projects would require separate action from school boards and the Carroll City Council.

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors Monday morning approved the draft hazard-mitigation plan, facilitated by Region 12 Council Governments.

"It is extremely comprehensive," said Supervisors Chairman Mark Beardmore. "It has taken into consideration all of the 'What ifs?'"

Updated every five years, the document assesses potential hazards in the county with prevention and responses outlined, said Stacy Lentsch, a regional planner for Region 12.

All of the cities in Carroll County must vote on the plan once it is approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency - which requires the study for the county to be eligible for certain federal relief programs.

The county contributed $6,000 in-kind support for the study. Federal funding for it stood at $30,000 and state $4,000.

The study eliminated earthquakes, sinkholes and landslides from the potential hazards in Carroll County. The county is located in one of the lower-risk areas of the United States for earthquakes.

The plan rates a transportation incident as "likely," with much of the focus on railroads. From 2001 to 2010, Carroll County experienced 10 rail accidents and five rail-automobile accidents. During that same time period, Carroll County reported 2,653 traffic accidents, resulting in 26 fatalities, 449 injuries and more than $12 million in property damages.

Participants in the hazard-mitigation plan ranked a terrorist attack as unlikely as there has not been an enemy attack on Iowa soil in modern times. There are concerns about animal-rights activists, however, the plan states.

On the nuclear front, danger to Carroll County residents from the Fort Calhoun plant 19 miles north of Omaha is "minimal," according to a detailed analysis of possible issues there.

Region 12 plans to post the study online in coming days. It includes risk breakdowns and suggested plans for all the cities in Carroll County as well as the unincorporated area.