Feds set up unique flash flood warning system in Wood River Valley

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- The Beaver Creek Fire last August burned 114,000 acres near Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The flames left a naked and fragile landscape.

"Once a fire occurs, you lose a lot of your canopy, and your vegetation cover," said Michael Lewis, with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boise, "and so the potential for flash flooding and debris flows increases incredibly."

Now the USGS is surrounding the burned land in Blaine County with a warning system of six precipitation gages which measure rainfall in real time and transmit totals every five minutes via satellite.

"Anybody can grab that information by computer," Lewis said. "Or go on our website and register to get the information through e-mail or text message."

The USGS has established precipitation gages in other states, but this is the first time anything like this has been done in Idaho.

It means almost instantaneous advance warning of flash floods...or of utmost concern...debris flows.

The potential for disaster was clearly seen last September when drenching rains caused a massive mudslide and debris flow in Elmore County on slopes scarred by the Elk Complex Fire.