Flood and Weather Fair to prepare community

ALBANY, Ga. -- There will be no ferris wheel or cotton candy at this county fair, but you may find it entertaining, and it could even save your life.

The Albany and Dougherty County Flood and Severe Weather Preparedness Fair will feature indoor exhibits at the Thronateeska Science Museum, 100 W. Roosevelt Ave. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Outdoor displays will be at the Flint RiverQuarium Parking Lot, 101 Pine Ave. The fair is free to the public.

According to coordinator Peggy Hegarty of Albany Planning and Development Services, sufficient time has passed since the "great floods" of 1994, and 1998, so that many area residents are unaware of potential dangers and are unprepared should they arise. In addition, public educational programs like the upcoming fair generate "points" toward lower flood insurance rates from the federal government.

"The insurance fund is maybe $17 billion in debt right now, because of disasters like Hurricane Katrina," Hegarty said. "The rates will steady increase and tends to make people think more seriously about where they move or build a home."

Hegarty said that while the flood of 1994 was called a "500-year" event, many don't realize that rather than cycling just twice each century, there is actually a 0.2 percent chance in any given year a flood of that magnitude will occur. The fair will also address severe weather situations, which may or may not produce flooding, such as hurricanes or the devastating Albany tornado of 1940.

According to Hegarty, the important exhibits everyone should experience include flood mapping, where properties can be quickly researched to reveal the degree of flood risk, the preparedness exhibit, where FEMA pamphlets are available on how to prepare for flooding and severe weather, as well as the list of alert systems to be utilized for information.

Examples of the systems include radio, severe weather radio. TV and Internet websites. At the Science Museum, where Hegarty says viewing should begin, Albany and Dougherty County residents may enroll in the CodeRED program, a no-cost entry into a special telephone calling system designed to warn of impending flood or severe weather. For CodeRED information contact Jim Vaught, deputy director of Albany Dougherty County Emergency Management Agency at (229) 431-2155.

Hegarty said the fair will also include exhibits on the history of flooding, past coverage of the Albany floods, flood insurance information, pet safety information, door prizes, a mobile command unit tour and more.

According to Hegarty, a unique scavenger hunt will take place from the science museum exhibits to the path to Riverfront Park up to the RiverQuarium parking lot. Prizes will be given to those completing the hunt.

The Archives Department of the Thronateeska Heritage Center will be conducting an oral history project at the fair to document personal experiences of the 1994 flood. Hegarty said those willing to interview for the project may contact Cathy Flohre, Thronateeska archivist, for additional information.

Agencies participating in the fair include The National Weather Service, MCLB, Emergency Management Agency and Albany Dougherty Search and Rescue Squad and many more, Hegarty said.