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First flood causes little damage

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SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Steady rains caused the Valley to get its first flood of the season last week.

King County officials issued a Phase III flood warning last Wednesday, which lasted until that night. Phase III, which is categorized as "flooding of varied depths," means that more than 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was flowing through the Snoqualmie River.

The warning came after heavy rains in an otherwise dry autumn. Readings on the Snoqualmie River near Snoqualmie Falls hovered below 2,000 cfs until last Tuesday, when rain started to drench the Valley. More than 2.75 inches of rain fell in North Bend in a period that spanned from 4 p.m. Nov. 13 to 10 a.m. Nov. 14.

"That is a lot of water," said Kirsten Willman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

Willman said the Seattle metropolitan area got nearly half of its average rainfall for November in just under one day.

Although the rain came hard and heavy, the impact on Valley residents' lives was contained to road closures and other flood annoyances. Parts of Meadowbrook Road, Reinig Road and Mill Pond Road were closed to traffic and emergency crews worked to unclog drains and clear debris from low-lying roads.

King County Fire Protection District 27 Chief Chris Connor said an 83 year-old man from Issaquah became stuck in his car after he drove on a closed road outside of Fall City. The man, who was driving down Neal Road along the Snoqualmie River, drove into some water unaware of how deep it was when his car stalled. The man had to wade through waist-high water to higher ground, where he was treated by District 27 crews. He was released later on in the day.

The river reached its highest point about 6 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at about 22,300 cfs. It then started to recede and was down below 10,000 cfs by Thursday.

Although continued rain caused the river's flowing volume reading to surge back up to about 12,500 cfs on Thursday evening, water levels dropped throughout the weekend. The highest flood warning, Phase IV, which is anything over 38,000 cfs, was never seriously approached.

The Tolt River, which feeds into the Snoqualmie River, overran its banks as well. Readings from it were more than 6,000 cfs, which is also a Phase III flood for that area. The Tolt reached its highest point Thursday and receded over the weekend.

Connor said a few flooded basements were reported to the fire station in Fall City. Snoqualmie and North Bend officials reported little more than the usual flood problems as well.

Although there was a lot of water flowing through the Valley last week, it paled in comparison to other floods that took place in the 1990s. Readings at Snoqualmie Falls were more than 50,000 cfs in 1995 and 1996 and reached 78,800 cfs during the flood of November 1990.

You can reach Ben Cape at (425) 888-2311, or e-mail him at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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