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Raising the stakes against flooding

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SNOQUALMIE _ Tired of replacing their furnace and water heater

after floods swamped the city in 1990, 1995 and 1996, Roger and

Rachelle Cleven decided to try and even the odds against Mother Nature.

They raised their house 7 feet off the ground.

They had a little help, though. The couple was one of several local

residents who took part in the city's hazard mitigation grant program.

Since the inception of the program in the mid-1990s, Snoqualmie has

received $2.68 million from the state Emergency Management Division to

elevate 39 homes and buy out 10 properties.

Roger bought the house at 8060 Falls Ave. S.E. in 1987, in part

because it had withstood previous floods.

"I knew when I moved in here that until then it [flood waters] had

never gotten in the house, and that's what helped sell it for me," he said.

In 1990, that changed.

"We had about 1 1/2 feet in the house, which was good because

some people had 5 feet," Roger said of the 1990 flood.

After more floods hit the city in 1995 and 1996, Roger saw a

bulletin at the post office about the hazard mitigation grant program, and he

and Rachelle decided to apply.

The Clevens received the funding to raise their home in 1997. Roger

said a hydraulic lift was used to slowly elevate the home 7 feet in the air.

The couple was out of their home for about a month as crews worked to build

up the foundation. Then the newly created foundation was matched to

the existing exterior of the home.

In previous years, Roger said, "Anytime you see that first drop

[of rain] come down in November, you say, `Uh, oh, here it comes.'" But

with his house raised, he feels more at ease.

"It's peace of mind that it's not going to happen again," he said.

The Clevens' home was featured Nov. 9 during an event in

which Snoqualmie Mayor Randy "Fuzzy" Fletcher proclaimed November to

be "Flood Awareness Month." According to Permit Administrator

Rhonda Montgomery, there are 630 homes and 36 commercial buildings in the

city's floodplain.

"The city of Snoqualmie is striving to improve our quality of life

for our residents both in and out of the floodplain," Fletcher said.

"We continue to look for grants and other ways to improve

flooding issues."

One way the city accomplishes that is by participating in the

National Flood Insurance Program's community rating system. Montgomery,

who oversees Snoqualmie's participation in the rating system, said each city

enrolled in the program takes steps to reduce problems caused by

flooding and to increase flood awareness. Those efforts generate a discount

on flood insurance policies for residents.

Snoqualmie residents receive a 20 percent discount in flood

insurance, which must be purchased separately from homeowner's insurance,

because the city installed an early warning system, relocated the Police Division

out of the floodplain to Snoqualmie Ridge, sent newsletters to residents

concerning flooding issues and prepared annual progress reports on

floodplain management, among other things.

"We look forward to another year of not having a flood," Fletcher

said after issuing the proclamation, "but we need to be prepared if one

happens." And he urged more residents to buy flood insurance through the

federal program. The average cost of flood insurance in Snoqualmie is $520

a year, depending on where the resident lives in the city's floodplain or

floodway.

Carl Cook, mitigation director for the Federal Emergency

Management Agency's Region 10, which includes Snoqualmie, said the city has been

a leader in addressing flooding concerns.

"If there's anyplace that has not been in denial about flooding

problems, it's Snoqualmie," he said.

"The [residents] here have recognized there is a flooding problem, and

they've bought flood insurance, and it has paid off."

An official with the state Emergency Management Division said

by elevating houses, Snoqualmie's future won't be threatened by high waters.

"The city of Snoqualmie is taking steps to become a

disaster-resistant community," said Martin Best,

whose office approves funds for the hazard mitigation grant program. "We

can look out the windows from the city of Snoqualmie and say we did the

right thing."

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