As rivers rise, several Western Washington communities are on flood watch and the Army Corps of Engineers has deployed flood fighters as the Snohomish, Skykomish, Stillaguamish and Tolt rivers swell. Other rivers were still at risk for flooding Saturday.
From Thursday evening to Saturday evening, the region received from a ½ inch to 2 ½ inches of rain in the lowlands, and as much as 9 inches in some areas in the mountains.
The Corps of Engineers has delivered 50,000 sandbags and two pumps to local teams in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, and its flood fighters worked overnight into Saturday in the town of Lyman on the Skagit River, which is forecast to rise as high as 31 feet, trying to reinforce banks and excavate trenches. The city of Mount Vernon has raised its flood wall to protect the downtown core.
Persistent rain throughout the region has left the ground soaked, increasing risk of landslides, according to the National Weather Service; south of Bellingham, a landslide 60 feet wide and 7 feet deep closed the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 until late afternoon. In Seattle, a tree — torn at the roots — toppled onto Seattle Pacific University’s student union building late Friday night, although it’s not yet clear if that was caused by the wet ground or the wind, according to an SPU spokesperson.
In the town of Sultan in Snohomish County, which sits at the confluence of the Skykomish and Sultan rivers, flooding is worse than it’s been in three or four years, according to Mayor Russell Wiita. He and teams of volunteers were out early Saturday delivering hundreds of sandbags to residents in the downtown. The Skykomish River hit major flooding category Saturday morning, but that was lowered to moderate by afternoon.
“When the Skykomish is up, and there’s more water in the Sultan, there’s nowhere for it to go except downtown,” Wiita said. “We’ve got about a dozen homes in our downtown that folks are going to have a hard time getting in and out of.”
At the Loggers Inn, a bar and grill, the beer garden flooded and even the 3-foot stage was underwater, according to Robbie Lackey, who runs events there. Lackey said it’s the closest business in town to the Skykomish River.
“It’s still up pretty good,” Lackey said Saturday afternoon. “(But) you can get over to the establishment with rain boots.”
Across town, the Dutch Cup Motel saw people begin trickling in who stayed there because of the flooding, according to Melanie Haddock at the motel’s front desk. She estimates four or five people are staying there because of the flooding, and she was expecting more.
“We’re expecting more, we have lots of calls,” Haddock said. “Tonight we’re expected to be full.”
The Snohomish River was still rising as of Saturday evening, as were the White and Cedar rivers, according to Brent Bower, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. Rainfall across the region is expected to lessen in the next few days.
“We have a couple days break, but midweek we’re looking at a potential heavy rain event which could bring more flooding or new flooding,” Bower said.