In Sumas, up near the Canadian border where this week’s river of rain caused trains to derail and City Hall to flood, the damage to homes is worse than expected with an estimated 85% of residences damaged.
That’s up from the 75% estimated Tuesday, said Mayor Kyle Christensen, who, along with crews and volunteers, spent Wednesday assessing the situation and organizing clean-up efforts.
“We’re just starting to get a better idea of how bad it is,” he said, adding it appeared more than 300 homes were damaged in the town of 1,300 people.
Christensen said roads that were underwater Tuesday are now mostly open and residents have started returning to their homes. Some areas remain flooded, including downtown and City Hall, he said, and advised the public not to drive through flooded areas.
“You would want to do that in an SUV or truck,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to try it in a car.”
With mostly clear skies forecast for the rest of the week and receding rivers, residents of the lowland Sumas Prairie turned their focus to repairs even while the city officials reminded folks to keep a go bag ready, “just in case.”
Throughout the region, people were helping neighbors haul out storm water and take damaged furniture and household goods to the four dumpsters set out by the city. Some were driving house to house, checking on conditions for those who have not yet returned. Others were organizing meals for emergency workers and flood victims.
“People in this city and community are really coming together,” Christensen said.
Christensen said that the city of Sumas requires homes to have flood insurance and therefore, he believes that at last three-quarters of the damaged homes are covered.
“The others will be on their own and that’s a concern,” he said.
City officials said they will be continuing to monitor water levels in Canada, including any concerns about the Barrowtown pump station, which had been in danger of being inundated with flood waters flowing north from the Nooksack River. Christensen said experts have assured him there would be time to alert residents if that were to change.
The danger of catastrophic flooding in Abbotsford, B.C. was averted, according to CBC Canada, when 150 staff, volunteers and farmers worked overnight Tuesday to build a sandbag dam to hold back rising waters. The mayor of Abbotsford had issued a public alert on Tuesday night saying that failure at the pump station was imminent.
Sumas officials on the city’s Facebook page said some areas of town remain without power. They warned people to be cautious while turning on breakers, with reports of sparks and even small fires from those doing so.
“These families and businesses need our prayers and support as we start the process of cleanup and rebuilding over the next few days,” the city said in another Facebook post.
Nearly all of the flooded waterways, including the Skagit River that wraps around Mount Vernon, had crested by Tuesday morning. However, the Skagit flood warning remains in effect until Thursday night, because massive volumes of water in the Cascades and foothills will take a while to drain.
More than 500 rescues and evacuations were reported in the Sumas area, including stalled motorists. Gov. Jay Inslee and Whatcom County Executive Satpal Singh Sidhu issued disaster declarations as has the Premier of British Columbia, where high water, mud and rock slides have cut off critical transportation routes.
South of Sumas, a body was recovered Wednesday in a wooded area in Everson, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities believe the body is Jose Garcia, who was reported missing by his family early Monday morning after his car was swept by floodwaters on his way to work.
Information from The Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press is included in this report.