Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed a state of emergency, saying that flooding caused by recent rains and snow melt has fouled water and sewage- treatment facilities, threatened roadways and prompted some people to leave their homes.
Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed a state of emergency Saturday because of severe flooding in Eastern Washington, where despite a blue-sky-and-sunshine weekend snowmelt from the Canadian provinces has caused record flood levels in three counties.
Flooding is affecting communities in Ferry, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties and could get worse next week. The proclamation covers these three plus the 17 other Eastern Washington counties facing an increased flooding threat over the next seven days.
“Flooding caused by recent rains and snowmelt has fouled water and sewage- treatment facilities, threatened state highways and local roads and caused some people to leave their homes,” Inslee said. “Continued higher temperatures are predicted to increase snowmelt and cause additional flooding as rivers and streams continue to rise to record or near record levels.”
The governor’s proclamation directs state agencies to implement the appropriate response.
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The Kettle River in Ferry County crested at 22.5 feet Thursday afternoon, 5 feet above flood stage, and is expected to remain above record levels for the next week, according to Mark Turner, observation program leader at the Spokane office of the National Weather Service.
“The highest level ever recorded on that river was 21.2 feet in 1948,” Turner said. “There’s a lot of structures in the water in Ferry County.”
Turner said that while the annual spring snowmelt plays out every year in the three most affected counties, this year “the abundance of snow in the headwaters of these rivers was above normal.”
Combined with some spring thunderstorms last week, that was enough to trigger the record inundation.
While the flooding has moderated in some areas, the Pend Oreille River is forecast to reach a flow of more than 118,000 cubic feet per second by next Thursday, which hasn’t occurred since 2011.
And Turner said pressure continues to build on the Okanogan River.
The river, which runs through Tonasket, reached a level of 19 feet early Friday, which is above the 15-foot flood stage. Okanogan County opened its Emergency Operations Center.
In Omak, a levee is handling water flow, but storm drains have been backing up and some basements have flooded. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Okanogan County Emergency Management are monitoring river levels.
Omak City administrator Todd McDaniel said the city brought in additional pumps.
“We believe the levee is going to hold. We are concerned about (water) seepage coming in, but I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “We are hoping we don’t have anyone displaced.”
The National Weather Service’s Turner said there’s no heavy rainfall on the immediate horizon.
“It’s mostly just the snowmelt to worry about at this point,” he said.
The State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray, next to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was activated Saturday to monitor local efforts and coordinate resources to help local officials. The proclamation allows the governor to activate resources of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.