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Flooded Lower Snoqualmie Valley residents wait for water to drop
Maybe this one wouldn’t be as bad as predicted, Ken Meadors hoped.
Lower Valley flooding had already forced the evacuation of the permanent residents of the Snoqualmie River RV Park and Campground in Fall City Wednesday afternoon, March 30, and Meadors was bracing for another move as Thursday morning’s forecasted crest neared.
The Snoqualmie River crested around 3:45 p.m. Thursday, March 31, at the Falls, flowing at 31,840 cubic feet per second. Flows decreased within a few hours, and the river level started dropping noticeably after midnight.
Downstream at Carnation, it crested at about 2:30 a.m. Friday, April 1, at 58.2 feet and 41,741 cfs. With the river remaining high for days, the National Weather Service ended flood warnings at Carnation late Saturday, April 2.
The Raging River, alongside which all the Fall City Campground residents were parked, crested just before midnight Wednesday, at a flow rate of about 1,800 cfs.
Residents were watching it closely as they waited for things to get back to normal. They made the best of the situation, gathering at a bonfire near Meadors’ camper, feasting on chili and trying not to worry about the high cost of running their generators. One woman said it took about five gallons of gas to run her generator for five hours.
“We thought we were set up,” said Meadors, proudly sporting his “Snoqualmie River Trailer Trash” ball cap. “We were already bringing in firewood and setting stuff up for the summer.”
Shortly after noon Wednesday, though, Fall City firefighters started phoning them all and setting a 4 p.m. deadline to be out of the park. Thursday morning, the road into the camground was overtopped, and Thursday afternoon, the campground was fully inundated.
“This is a big one, for a pineapple (express) this late in the year,” said Meadors. He would know, having lived in the campground for 16 years. It’s already the third time he’s been evacuated this year, but he remembers more. “Yeah, six times, that was many years ago. Must have been ‘95 or ‘96... we had to move out six times in one year.”
Downriver, Tolt Hill Road stayed open until 8 p.m. Wednesday, and the frequently-closed Northeast 124th Street Bridge across the Valley remained open until about 9:15 a.m. Thursday.
Thursday afternoon, Carnation Golf Course owner Chad Tachell was confident the underwater course and access road would open in time for this weekend’s Club of the Nation event.
“We’ll get it open for that, unless something bad happens. The golf course can turn around in a week, or a week and a half,” he said.
Tachell estimates this is about the 12th time this winter he’s been cut off from his business. The 150-acre Carnation Golf Course is surrounded by the Snoqualmie River on three sides, and parts of the course do flood, but the first thing he loses in any flood is access to the course from West Snoqualmie Valley Road.
Before that happens, Tachell says he generally picks up anything that might float away, locks up the buildings, and then waits for the flood to end and the course to dry out. “Everything I’ve ever done is to allow the water to rise evenly” on the course, he said.
Flooding rarely reaches the course buildings, but Tachell is excited to have his club house elevated 11 feet, courtesy of a FEMA grant awarded to his business because of the frequent flooding. Damages, cleanup costs and lost revenue are having a severe effect on the business’s bottom line, but Tachell is reluctant to lay blame.
“My business has declined steadily, and the weather does contribute,” he said.
He added that he’s seen more, and more severe flooding over the years, having grown up on the course since the mid ‘70s when his father bought it. “It didn’t flood much then,” he said.
He’s heard several people point to the ongoing flood reduction work at Snoqualmie Falls as a possible cause of the increased flooding, but he doesn’t blame that either.
“I would think that what they’re doing with the Upper Valley is good, and I would expect the extension of the project to go down to the Valley. I mean, logic states that if you do something upriver, it has an impact downriver.”
The flooded road was not just a nuisance for Tachell. On his commute home from work, bicyclist Scott Stout was weighing his chances of successfully riding through the high water to get to his home on the Sammamish Plateau.
“I guess the road is officially closed,” he said. Looking at the alternative, Tolt Hill Road, “I could go over there, but I’m not sure I’m up to that today... It’s not my day to ride hard, it’s my day to ride easy, and that’s hard,” he sighed.
“If it’s knee deep, I won’t go in it. I can do up to about here on the bike,” he said, pointing to a spot an inch above the wheel hub, “and if it’s running at all, I won’t go through it.”
Another couple was already wading through the floodwaters on foot on that stretch of road, and plenty of cars were pulled over next to the water for a closer look.
Meadors, who has his own “Road Closed” sign just for these occasions, is resigned to the gawkers.
“It’s nature, it’s like a car wreck. People want to see it,” he said.