One of the first decisions made by the Linn County Board of Supervisors in the days before the 2016 flood was to appoint Linn County Risk Manager Steve Estenson as the Incident Commander. That’s a formal way of saying that Steve was in charge of coordinating all efforts to prepare for the flood, as well as being given the authority to make key decisions.
It was a huge job. In the days before the event, Steve followed flood predictions. He determined which county buildings would be affected. He helped secure sandbags. With the appropriate departments, he also determined road and park closures. And which county buildings needed to be evacuated.
It wasn’t his first rodeo. Steve was also heavily involved in the flood of 2008 and was aware of what the potential impact was for each county operation and facility.
“The most crucial actions were to protect the public, our employees and our infrastructure,” he said.
By Monday, September 26, all county buildings and property had been prepared to withstand a crest of 28-feet. When the Cedar River crested at just under 22 feet on September 27, Steve immediately began to plan a return to evacuated buildings and business as usual.
But his job wasn’t done. Since the flood, Steve has been focused on identifying damages, gathering costs and expenses, meeting and touring sites with insurance adjusters and informing key agencies about county activities and damages.
Looking back on that critical week in September, Steve calls it a “great drill.”
“We got to see all of our departments and staff pull together to prepare for the worst and make educated decisions in a quick manner. This event taught us what we’re capable of with preparation, leadership, teamwork and effective communication.”
Not to mention the right person at the helm.