STARTUP – Fire crews rescued a family of four Wednesday morning from a mobile home that was surrounded by rising waters west of Startup.
A firefighter stood in hip-deep water holding a boat at the steps to the home as a woman, a teenage boy and two young girls — one sucking on a pacifier and the other clutching a doll — climbed into the boat.
They also loaded up bags and two golden retrievers.
The firefighter steered the boat through the swollen river to the nearby Roadside Park.
“The river just came up so fast they weren’t able to get out,” firefighter Ken Hopkins said. “I think these people know they should have gotten out earlier.”
The family are among the first people affected by flooding, which is expected to hit hardest later this afternoon.
That’s when the Skykomish River at Gold Bar is expected to reach major flood stage.
Crews used sandbags to shore up weak areas along the Skykomish River this morning and inspected levees and dikes on county rivers as major flooding was projected for this afternoon and Thursday.
Emergency planners are preparing for major flooding around the county, but the rivers aren’t expected to reach levels seen in the Election Day floods of 2006, county spokesman Christopher Schwarzen said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worry there could be major breaks in levees and dikes throughout the county. All the spillways are expected to be activated.
Flooding in Snohomish County is expected to come in two waves, with the first hitting today. That’s when the Stillaguamish River is expected to spill its banks. The Skykomish River near Gold Bar also is expected to rise above flood stage this afternoon.
The Snohomish River at Monroe and Snohomish is expected to flood Thursday morning.
Crews are concerned the flooding at Snohomish will correspond with an extremely high tide and a higher than normal low tide. That could mean the river will linger at flood stage for up to eight hours, said Noel Gilbrough, a project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The water may not be released until Friday, he said. That means levees could be saturated with water.
Commuters are being warned that Highway 9 likely will be closed tonight.
Snohomish Police Cmdr. George Perillo cautioned people against driving around road closure signs. He said the flood may be life threatening for people who try to drive through the water.
The Corps is expected to continue to inspect the levees and dikes throughout the day. Meanwhile, county crews began delivering sand and bags this morning to parts of the county to prepare for flooding.
Heavy rains are expected to continue to fall in the mountains into the evening. Emergency crews also are preparing for potential landslides in areas such as Oso.
Flooding is expected throughout Western Washington. The state has activated its emergency operation center to respond to flooding conditions.
Here are dispatches from around the county:
Two years ago the Snohomish River had risen far above a small park on its banks, swallowing picnic tables and a pathway. The streets of downtown had almost a festive atmosphere as people watched to see if the flood would break records.
This morning the streets were empty and it was still possible to sit at the picnic tables on the riverbank. The areas that flooded in 2006 were just muddy.
Parts of Lincoln Avenue were underwater as were soccer fields in the Pilchuck Recreation area. Lincoln Avenue wasn’t closed and cars were speeding through water reaching half way up their tires.
None of planes at Harvey Airfield has been moved.
Christi Otness, flight school manager for the airfield, said engineers have redesigned the diking system that protects the airfield since the 2006 floods.
“It’s working,” Otness said.
The airfield has a plan in place if they need to evacuate but at this point they’re not worried.
Carl Oxwang, 64, lives along the banks of the Snohomish River just outside of Snohomish. He doesn’t plan to sandbag, because his house sits below the river level. The last time that flooding occurred water came up beneath the home and on all sides.
“The last time, we had seven or eight inches of water in the house,” Oxwang said. “We’ll just have to deal with it.”
He runs a concrete business from his home and has already lifted all of his tools and equipment above the ground. His only consolation is that he rents the house and doesn’t own it. He plans to move next year after he retires.
“It only floods every 10 years, but this time it happened to come faster,” said Oxwang, referring to the Election Day floods of 2006.
Rain is falling in heavy gray sheets and the nearby Skykomish River is full and moving fast. The Sultan River has left its banks and is covering most of Sportsman’s Park and River Park and nearby First Street.
City crews in Sultan have closed First Street, which is submerged to Birch Street. Water is beginning to pool on Second Street and many city streets are partly flooded from heavy rain.
Brigette Criswell stood smoking at an apartment door about 50 feet from the advancing flood water. This is her friend’s apartment and she stayed with her last night because her friend was nervous. She has lived in Sultan most of her life but she says this time the rising water is making her nervous.
She plans to help her friend sandbag around the front door and she may also have to help sandbag at the downtown barbecue place where she works.
Firefighters spent the night walking city streets and warning people, who camp by the nearby rivers that floods were coming, said Andrew McLaurin, a firefighter.
“We’re just waiting,” he said. “Everyone’s ready.”
At Haller Park in Arlington, about dozen people stood in the rain and watched the waters rising where the north and south forks of the Stillaguamish rivers meet.
Darren Massingale, who lives northeast of Arlington, said the water had risen from 13 feet shortly after 8 a.m. to 14 feet in less than an hour.
A measurement is marked on the railroad trestle at the park. He took photos of the rising river on his cell phone.
He has children in school and thinks that the schools could close if the water rises fast enough.
Terrie Bertrand of Arlington said she was amazed about the amount of debris in the river.
“Look at all those big pieces going by so fast,” she said.
A group of people gathered in front of the Green Gables General Store in Robe Valley on Wednesday morning.
The south fork of the Stillaguamish River was rising, but the people outside the store said they weren’t worried yet.
“This doesn’t look like a storm,” said Betty Hults, 79, who has lived in the area for more than 10 years.
Pete Iversen agreed, looking at the rain.
“If it doesn’t rain any harder than this, we won’t have much to worry about,” he said.
Fisherman shoved chilly hands into jacket pockets, pondering how high the Stillaguamish River would get near Stanwood.
Water slowly rose across the parking lot at the state boat launch at what’s called Hatt Slough, off Boe Road.
On a good day, they would be sliding skiffs into the water, but there was nothing to do Wednesday morning but stand, stare and speculate.
It was a slow day for Troy Lane of Arlington.
Every day has hours to fill, since he lost his job of 24 years at Meridian Yachts, Lane said.
“I came down to town to watch the snow geese,” he said, standing next to his idling Toyota pickup. “I came here to take a look.”
Full tree trunks cruised down the river, bare branches angled towards the sky, mimicking a crew team at a bizarre regatta.
“We’re waiting for some fire wood to wash in,” said one fisherman, who asked not to be identified. “If you wait a bit, we’ll scoop up some fish.”
Carwilla Bjornstad of Stanwood watched the water lap up against the dike on Hevly Road in Silvana.
“It’s come up four inches in the last 20 minutes, and it’s only a couple feet from the top of the dike,” she said. “I imagine they’re going to close the road pretty soon.”
John Kalberg stacked sandbags near the front door of his business, Silvana Meats. He said he plans to close up early for the day.
“I’m not expecting the flood water to get in my shop, but you never can tell,” he said. “When the high tide hits this afternoon we could have a problem.”
Water flowed across Normon Road and across Boe Road near Silvana. Travis Rife, a Snohomish County Public Utilities District employee, said he wouldn’t dare to drive through the water in his pick-up truck. Rife said crews were coming through to deliver a power line, but they gave up and turned back.
Roads began to close in the Gold Bar area after noon today as water from the Skykomish River began to flow across them.
Old Cascade Highway at Miller Bridge, Wren Road, 399th Avenue SE, North Sky View Drive and parts of Mann Road were all closed, Gold Bar Mayor Crystal Hill said.
Highway 2 near 10th Street in Sultan is also flooded. Elsewhere in the county, water is flowing over portions of Pioneer Highway northeast of Silvana. The road hasn’t yet been blocked off by city or county crews, but only large trucks are able to make it through the water.
Gold Bar emergency crews rescued a family at about 11 a.m. today when they had to be carried across 399th Avenue SE, Hill said. The family was forced to leave behind two ferrets and several cats.
Hill said residents in flood-prone areas should make plans for their animals in case they’re forced to evacuate. People who are displaced should come to a flooding command center at 42013 Highway 2 if they need help, Hill said. From there, families will likely be sent to find shelter at American Red Cross emergency locations or at Mountain Valley Chapel or Camp Huston, Hill said.
Families still working to protect their property can get sand bags at the Gold Bar City Hall and the Gold Bar Fire Department, Hill said.
Dozens of horses, goats and even zebras were finding shelter at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe. Owners of most of the animals said the water hadn’t reached their stables at home, but they wanted to bring the animals to a safe shelter as a precaution.
Nearly 250 animals found shelter at the fairgrounds during the November 2006 floods, fairgrounds manager Mark Campbell said.
Most of the animals were adjusting well, but the occasional loud clang could be heard as a horse kicked the metal wall.
Amureta, a 26-year-old mare rescued from an abusive situation was brought in from Old Maple Farms in Monroe.
“She’s a little bit upset right now,” said her owner Janet Pisk, as the horse paced in her stall.
Four zebras were brought in by Bob Wolfe, who takes in orphaned exotic animals at Hope Mountain Ranch near Monroe.