High water wallops Snoqualmie Valley; Police chief: ‘We dodged a huge bullet’
November 25, 2008 · Updated 3:39 PM
As the rain clouds cleared and water retreated from streets, parks, back yards and homes in the Valley last week, the waterlogged basements, flooded fields and stacks of sandbags remained.
A day after the Wednesday, Nov. 12 flood reached its height, streets reopened and sightseers flocked to the raging Snoqualmie Falls for a rare vision. Damage from the flood, the Snoqualmie Valley’s second big one in two years, ended up being lighter than originally predicted.
“We dodged a pretty huge bullet,” said Snoqualmie Police Chief Jim Schaffer.
High water that flooded the Valley Wednesday crested late in the day, with a peak of about 45,000 cubic feet per second rushing over Snoqualmie Falls about 5 p.m.
At the height of the flood, some neighborhoods in Snoqualmie and Fall City had to be evacuated. The evacuation order for Snoqualmie was canceled Thursday.
“Everyone is able to go back to their homes,” said Snoqualmie communications coordinator Joan Pliego.
City infrastructure was fine, fresh water and power unaffected by the previous day’s flood.
The flood had been predicted to outdo the Election Day flood of 2006. However, the river crested at about 10,000 cfs lower than the previous flood event.
“The biggest problem we had were drivers, people driving through water they shouldn’t have been,” Schaffer said. “Lookie-loos, the people that wanted to come and see, were just abundant.”
Some vehicles may have been able to make it down water-filled streets, but the main reason not to drive down flooded roads, Schaffer said, was the wakes that moving cars leave behind. The waters could wash into people’s homes, flooding them.
Around the Valley
The day after the storm, all roads were open in North Bend and no flooding damage had been reported, said Ron Garrow, the city’s public works director.
The city did not declare a state of emergency, but did lead a sandbagging effort near the Mount Si Senior Center.
About 70 people dropped by the city’s emergency operations center to volunteer, Garrow said. Some were referred to Snoqualmie
“We got off pretty well,” Garrow said.
Eastside Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Josie Williams said about eight people had taken refuge Wednesday evening in a Red Cross emergency shelter at the Preston Park Community Center.
Fall City Fire Chief Chris Conner said his department had no significant flood-related calls.
“It was pretty non-eventful,” he said.
Some roads were still closed in the area Thursday afternoon, and Connor expected them to stay closed for a while as waters receded.
He said some residents in the area had their road access cut off, but chose to stay in their homes, which were high and dry.
In the flood
At the height of the flooding, a crowd of volunteers gathered at the King Street parking lot in Snoqualmie to fill sandbags for anyone who needed them, free of charge.
Snoqualmie Ridge resident Kathleen Keating spent Wednesday morning in the rain, sandbagging with her family. The bags were used by residents who needed them, including North Fork resident Mike Ylenni.
“It’s coming in my yard,” said Ylenni. The water was breaking in waves on his property, and the sandbags were to help protect it.
Keating, whose children also worked in the rain to prepare sandbags, said her Ridge residence was safe from flooding. Still, she planned to keep filling “till my body can’t.”
“They told us we needed to evacuate,” said Jesse Holen, a resident at the Park Street trailer park in Snoqualmie. The river had reached about two feet from his home by the time Holen had packed his car.
“I’ve got a 19-month-old kid in the house; I can’t gamble,” said Holen, who planned to seek shelter by calling an emergency number.
“We’re taking out everything,” said Carlos Fernandez, who also lives at the trailer park. “We lost a lot last time: TVs, everything.”
He lived through the last flood in 2006.
“This is the last time,” Fernandez said.
At the Mount Si Road bridge in North Bend, father and son Joe and Eli Murphy of North Bend pointed out fast-moving trees and logs floating downriver.
“It’s cool,” Eli said.
“This is a great position to see it,” Joe Murphy said. “It’s been interesting.”
Murphy noticed that logs placed along the riverbank by the county had already gone into motion as the water rose.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Murphy said. “I’ve seen it a lot higher than this.”
The sight of the raging waters plunging over Snoqualmie Falls Thursday was hard to describe for Randy Keller of Maple Valley.
Like all visitors to the Falls overlook, Keller was soaked in seconds by the spray of the Falls, which created its own mini-rainstorm.
“I was in there a minute,” said Keller, whose face, hair and clothing were dripping with mist. “That was all it took.”
“It’s fantastic,” said Issaquah resident Suzanne Evans, who smiled despite being caught in the spray. “It’s great to have the sun after a few days of horrible rain.”
Help and resources
After being closed for two days, the Snoqualmie Valley School District resumed classes on Friday, Nov.14. A temporary warming shelter opened for several hours on Wednesday, closing that evening. Both Snoqualmie and North Bend fired up their emergency operations centers during the flood, and the Snoqualmie center took calls from residents through Friday.
Homeowners, renters and businesses who experienced damage in the flood should call their local emergency operations center to report damages. Flood damage should be reported immediately, so that the state can determine whether federal assistance should be sought.
The Snoqualmie Emergency Operations Center can be reached at (425) 888-5911. The North Bend Emergency Operations Center can be reached at (425) 888-0486, option #1.
Sandbags can be taken to the Snoqualmie Public Works Department, at 38194 S.E. Sterns Road.