Area schools close for flood

As flood waters flowed through the streets and yards of Snoqualmie, North Bend, Fall City and Carnation residents, lakes and rivers of water and the resulting power outages forced the Snoqualmie Valley School District to close down Tuesday, Nov. 7. It opened Thursday, Nov. 9, before closing Friday, Nov. 10, for Veteran's Day.

Flooding began early Monday in the Valley, but school district officials, including superintendent Joel Aune, made the decision not to close schools early on Monday. Instead, beginning at about 9 a.m., officials closely monitored Valley conditions such as the flow of the Snoqualmie River and weather reports, Aune said.

"We really tried to avoid an early dismissal of that nature because of the logistical difficulties associated with that," said Aune. "Especially at the elementary and middle schools, if we're going to do emergency dismissal, we have to get in contact with the parent of every one of those students. We're not going to send children home without making direct contact with a parent."

Schools were dismissed at the regular time and most students were dropped off at their bus stops without a problem. In some cases school buses were not able to get through standing water and some students were brought back, said Aune. These routes included Ernie's Grove, Moon Valley Road, Ribary Way, Edgewick Road, Fish Hatchery Road, Neal Road and 308th Avenue in Fall City; the Tolt Bridge area in Carnation and Southeast Reinig Road, said Jim Garhart, head of the district's transportation department. The Circle River area in North Bend and Northern Street in Snoqualmie also were problem areas, Garhart said.

"The water came up quicker than we anticipated on those routes," Garhart said.

The school secretaries contacted parents or emergency contacts to pick up students of these routes. Only one kindergartner from Snoqualmie Elementary School was taken to the district's emergency location on Snoqualmie Ridge at the end of the day, said Garhart. Later that night, the district's transportation vehicles were moved from behind the district administration building, 8001 Silva Ave. S.E., Snoqualmie, to Cascade View Elementary School on Snoqualmie Ridge to keep them out of water, Aune said.

Between 1:30-2 a.m. Tuesday morning, district officials made the decision to close schools due to water levels and power outages. The district then began the process of assessing damage within the schools and district facilities, Aune said.

Officials made the decision to keep district schools closed Wednesday at about 10 p.m. Tuesday night because of power outages at Mount Si High School, Snoqualmie Elementary and Snoqualmie Middle School. None of the other schools in the district were affected.

"We were not even able to get into Snoqualmie Elementary until early [Wednesday] morning," Aune said. "Even if the flood waters receded, we didn't know what or if there was any damage to the elementary and middle school facilities. We just didn't feel like we would be able to get ramped up to have school on regular schedule [Wednesday]." The district administration building was also surrounded by water on Tuesday, he said.

In addition to power outages, on Tuesday night, the school's emergency generator quit, making the district's telephone and network communications systems unusable, including updates to the district Web page about school closings. Valley residents were forced to rely on TV news stations and radio broadcasts to keep themselves informed.

Power was restored to Mount Si High School and Snoqualmie Elementary School shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. Luckily, none of the district facilities took in any water, so damage to the schools was minimal. There was little damage to clean up on school fields. There was no damage to the high school football field, and minimal to the grass field, just cleaning up the pitcher's mound and shaving an inch or so off the infield, said Carl Larson of the district's maintenance operations department.

"It's a good thing we raised the football field," Larson said. "The extra $900,000 it cost to put the field in the air saved a million and a half replacing it."

Between sports seasons, no district contests were canceled, but the high-school football and soccer teams were forced to move practices to Skyline School District fields.

"Watching TV and seeing some of the people in the community that were displaced or lost their homes, that's the real tragedy," Aune said. "Staff will try to have heightened awareness of which of our students have been through the hardest experience the last few days."

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