An all-day downpour yesterday sent residents and government officials scrambling to prepare for major flooding on rivers in several Western Washington counties. Those with the highest...

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An all-day downpour yesterday sent residents and government officials scrambling to prepare for major flooding on rivers in several Western Washington counties.

Those with the highest flood levels were the Snoqualmie and Tolt in King County, the Snohomish and Skykomish in Snohomish County, the Skokomish in Mason County and the Skagit in Skagit County.

Less serious flood warnings were issued for the Stillaguamish in Snohomish County, the Nooksack in Whatcom County, the Satsop in Grays Harbor County and the Bogachiel in Clallam County.

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But the rising waters were expected to crest and then ebb today, and overall the floods were expected to come up short of the destructive flooding that hit the region last year and a handful of other times in the past 15 years, weather forecasters said.

Rivers first started bulging Thursday night when a rush of warm, wet air from near Hawaii swept in and dumped more than a day’s worth of rainfall on the Puget Sound region, according to the National Weather Service.

A cold front expected last night and this morning was expected to bring sunshine and limit the flood damage.

“I’d call it a moderate flooding episode,” Doug McDonnal, a weather-service forecaster, said yesterday. “It’s probably not an event that’s really going to stand out historically.”

And many residents in flood-prone areas said they were used to the intrusion.

Some rivers, including the Skykomish, Snoqualmie and Snohomish, approached flood stage yesterday afternoon.

In Sultan, Beverly Holdt stepped onto her back deck and watched helplessly as the Skykomish seeped into her back yard, the water’s edge just 20 feet away.

“What can you do?” said Holdt, who has lived in Sultan for 28 years. “We’ve watched the floods come before, and this one won’t be any different.”

The timeworn readiness rituals began. Access roads to Holdt’s house were expected to flood, so she and her husband stocked up on supplies. The Sultan School District sent kids who live in low-lying areas home early so they wouldn’t be cut off from their families.

At the Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course in Fall City, a handful of golfers kept watch on the rapidly rising Snoqualmie River. The course golf pro, Jeff Groshell, said he was ready.

“We’re used to being worried,” he said.

During the worst floods, water covers the clubhouse floor and a five-acre lake replaces the fifth hole, Groshell said.

“When [the river] goes, we have a massive cleanup,” Groshell said. “We’ll be out there squeegeeing the green.”

STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Rising waters from the Snoqualmie River cover the roadway along West Snoqualmie River Road near Fall City.


Officials remained hopeful that flooding could be less severe in Snoqualmie this year because last summer the Army Corps of Engineers widened a portion of the river above Snoqualmie Falls. That project is expected to keep the river level a couple of feet lower during floods than before.

“If somebody watches the water rise to 2 inches from their floor [and then stop], then this project saved their bacon,” Tom Bean, a county engineer, said yesterday.

Still, many local rivers were expected to crest very high early this morning or this afternoon, according to the weather service. The Snoqualmie River at Snoqualmie Falls and the Tolt River at Carnation were scheduled to peak at 4 a.m., each at twice flood stage.

What the weather service called “major” flooding was expected along the Snoqualmie from Fall City to Duvall, covering many roads and residential areas.

The Snohomish River at Monroe was expected to crest at 4 p.m., 5 feet above flood stage, and not fall below flood stage until Sunday afternoon. At Snohomish, the river also may crest at 4 p.m. today and not fall below flood stage until Monday morning.

The Skykomish River at Gold Bar was expected to crest at 4 a.m., 4 feet above flood stage.

By early evening yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers decided that a thin dike on the Wallace River might not hold back encroaching flood waters. Engineers sent to the site were arranging heavy equipment to build an access road to the river’s shoreline and then build a levy to increase protection for residents on both sides of the river.

“We’re working as fast as we can to build this strong enough to hold back the water,” said Corps spokeswoman Maria Or. “It will be tough to finish in time, but we think we can do it.”

Officials in Jefferson and Snohomish counties activated emergency operations centers. Jefferson County declared a state of emergency after erosion closed off part of Upper Hoh Road on the county’s west end.

Larger measures were being taken elsewhere, as the Corps of Engineers monitored the Nooksack, Dungeness, Skagit and Chehalis river basins. The Corps’ Reservoir Control Center in Seattle yesterday was regulating flows for several rural dams in Western Washington. “We have flood engineers all over in the field,” Or said. “We’re close to major damage levels at many of the rivers.”

Several roads in flood-prone areas were also closed yesterday.

The weather service predicted flooding won’t match the four worst flood events in the past 15 years. In October 2003, several rivers saw major flooding, including record levels on the Skagit.

Flooding also hit historic levels in February 1996, November 1995 and November 1990, weather-service officials said.

Staff reporters Peyton Whitely, Christopher Schwarzen and Kelly Kearsley contributed to this report. Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or abach@seattletimes.com