Preston road erodes; home ravaged

The flooding that drenched Western Washington and cut Carnation off from the outside world abated Wednesday, but in Preston, just east of Issaquah, the Raging River wrecked a bridge, stranding some residents for days.

They could cross on foot, but since Chris Birchem can't walk to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue where he is a registered nurse, he missed two days of work before finding a solution.

"I called Enterprise," he said. "They pick you up."

King County road workers closed Upper Preston Road from the intersection of 312th Avenue Southeast easterly to Southeast 97th Street while they stabilized the slope, later opening it only intermittently. It was closed after further collapse Nov. 13 and likely won't reopen for months.

"The challenge that we are now faced with is that we could potentially experience significant delays to that area. Traffic back ups and the integrity of the road means we respond, but it could take us longer to get there," said Eastside Fire and Rescue (EFR) Battalion Chief Greg Tryon.

Fire officials are asking that residents living in that area pay particular attention to their fire safety practices. Kitchen fires, chimney fires and unattended candles are some of the common fire responses we receive during this time of year. A 10 to 15 minute response could mean the difference between fire damage and the total loss of property, Tryon said.

EFR Chief Lee Soptich said about 200 homes are affected by delayed response times.

The road is not expected to be completely repaired for several months. A gravel bypass is being built for emergency vehicles and may be available for residents if county staff determine it is safe for regular use. For road closure information in King County, call (206) 205-9150. For fire safety information, contact EFR at (425) 392-3433.

The river also destroyed the home Mike and Mary Nichols built and were preparing to move into, until the rising waters began carrying part of it away.

"It looks dangerous, totally dangerous," Tim Carlson, a neighbor, told KIRO TV. "The house is going to fall any time."

Information from King County Journal reporter Amy Roe is included in this report.

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