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Averting Disaster Damage in Tillamook County - a Case Study

Floods in Tillamook County, Oregon, in the winter of 1996, forced thousands of people from their homes, destroyed highways and businesses, and drowned more than 700 dairy cows. Federal help covered about $8 million, but uncompensated losses totaled $53 million - a devastating blow for a small county of 25,000 people with average incomes of $18,000 a year.

A county commissioner called the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR). NPR selected Tillamook to demonstrate web-based GIS to support community planning.

GIS software products can turn raw data about populations, highways, biological resources, disease, the environment, and crime statistics into understandable web-based maps or displays that can support community planning. For Tillamook, the first use was to display areas where flood control was needed and where to protect specific property.

Working with FEMA's Project Impact -- a project to build disaster-resistant communities -- the county mobilized with support from the Army Corps of Engineers and HUD. The community elevated 55 homes and 14 businesses, and even critter pads for the cows.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1999, 9.1 inches fell in 48 hours. Thanks to GIS, federal support, and motivated people, damage was reduced by 96 percent - nearly $50 million - compared to 1996. And this dairy-oriented county lost not one of its 20,000 cows.

NPR and a Federal Geographic Data Committee are working with states and local governments and the private sector to develop standards and create a web clearinghouse of nearly 200 spatial dataservers.

July 2000

National Partnership for Reinventing Government