By Diana Hefley and Jackson Holtz Herald Writers
LYNNWOOD — Two Lynnwood apartments are miles away from Snohomish County’s flood-prone rivers but on Monday people at the Willshire Cove and Oxford Square apartments learned firsthand how quickly heavy rains and fast-moving water can leave behind a soggy mess.
Dozens of people were evacuated after a creek south of the apartments on 50th Avenue W. spilled over its banks and sent water rushing across the parking lots and into ground-floor apartments.
“I didn’t expect this,” said Mary Laugen, who lives in one of the six apartment buildings flooded. “I used to live in Sedro-Woolley where the Skagit River floods. I can’t be out for a week.”
A weekend packed with snow, rain and wind made for a waterlogged Monday. The rain kept falling overnight and people woke up to flooded basements, overflowing storm drains, bloated creeks and roads covered by standing water.
The rain persisted all day on Monday before finally dying down in the early evening, said Johnny Burg, a National Weather Service meteorologist. In Everett at Paine Field, 2.72 inches of rain had fallen by 5:30 p.m. That was about an inch short of the 24-hour record for Everett set in 1990. The forecast was for light rain or showers through Wednesday, Burg said.
Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a statewide emergency Monday. Members of the Washington National Guard were on standby to help those hit hardest by the windy, rainy weather. Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon declared a countywide emergency, making the community eligible for state and federal aid.
County officials opened an emergency operation center early Monday after urban flooding swept through the region. More flooding is expected along the banks of the Stillaguamish and Snohomish rivers today.
The south part of the county was hit the hardest by Monday’s high water.
An emergency shelter was opened in Lynnwood by Snohomish County Red Cross officials. The shelter is at the World Harvester Family Church, 20830 52nd Ave. W. City officials in Bothell declared a local emergency and evacuated people from a business park and school district building. They called for volunteers to help fill sandbags.
Jeannette Requa was thankful she was at home when a creek spilled over its banks and sent water cascading across her property on Nellis Road in Bothell. Muddy water filled her swimming pool and hot tub and also seeped into a workshop next to the house.
Requa used a swimming pool pump to keep water from coming inside her house, where she’s lived for about a decade. She said she’s never had problems with flooding before Monday. She blames new construction behind her house. About six acres have been cleared and prepped for two dozen new homes. As the water rushed toward her house, Requa said she panicked and called the developer for help. He sent out a crew to help place sandbags along the creek.
“I’m preparing for the worst. There’s no way this solved the problem,” she said. “If we weren’t home, this would have been a totally different situation.”
Hisham Fagan and his father-in-law on Monday waded through muddy water in his ground-floor apartment at Willshire Cove apartments in 19800 block of 50th Avenue W. in Lynnwood. The two lifted up a comfy suede couch, below framed portraits of Fagan’s two young children, and tossed it with the rest of his belongings into a moving truck.
He didn’t know where his family would stay for the night, or how long they would be forced out of their home. Finding a place to store their stuff was another dilemma.
“It’s a nightmare,” Fagan’s wife, Sanaa Fagan, said. “It reminds me of Louisiana. Until today, I never thought that this could happen to us.”
Lynnwood firefighters started to evacuate the apartments about 3:30 a.m. There was no time to protect the apartments from flooding with sandbags, Lynnwood Fire Department spokeswoman Marybeth O’Leary said.
“Almost everything is ruined,” she said.
People in upper units also were forced to leave after power to the apartments was turned off. It could be up to a week before people are allowed back into their apartments, O’Leary said. In all, 36 apartments were evacuated. The number of people displaced was not immediately available.
“This is going to be a big mess for awhile,” she said.
Plumbers around the county were overloaded with requests to pump out flooded basements and crawl spaces and to unclog storm drains.
“We are swamped. We have been since 7 a.m. It’s all over the place,” said Deborah Budinich with Southwest Plumbing.
The Sounder commuter train service to Seattle was closed down Monday and was expected to remain idle today because of mud on the tracks. State road crews also temporarily shut down U.S. 2 at Stevens Pass because of dozens of mudslides.
Scores of roads around Snohomish County were closed because of high water.
At least four blocks of 220th Street SW between I-5 and Highway 99 were closed in Mountlake Terrace.
“The road is absolutely flooded,” Mountlake Terrace Police Chief Scott Smith said.
The water was so deep, Washington State Patrol troopers had to close the off ramps from I-5 to 220th for a couple of hours to prevent traffic from flowing into the flooded area.
In Lynnwood, rescue crews rushed to help a couple of people who drove past “road closed” signs and found themselves stuck in deep water, Lynnwood Fire spokeswoman Marybeth O’Leary said.
“One the cars was almost completely submerged,” she said.
The person drove into deep water and had to swim to safety when their car started to submerge nose first, she said.
Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies advised people not to drive around barricades. People caught ignoring emergency road signs could face a $411 fine. According to the Red Cross, 80 percent of flooding deaths nationwide are a result of people trapped in vehicles.
Fire District 1 in south Snohomish County had 37 calls for flooding in homes and business Monday, spokeswoman Leslie Hynes said.
“We’ve had a busy day,” she said. “I’ve been here 10 years, I would say this is the most flooding we’ve had.”
By Monday afternoon, crews had gone to 80 calls, more than double the call load for a typical day, Hynes said.
One of the calls was to help a man who became stranded in high water on Ash Way under I-5, she said.
Crews believe the water there was as deep as 15 feet in the underpass, she said. The man stood on a cement footing for about an hour until crews were able to wade in and rescue him, she said.
The Snohomish County PUD reported scattered outages Monday affecting 4,000 customers, with the largest being in the Darrington, south Camano Island and Monroe areas. All but 250 customers had their power restored by late Monday evening, said spokesman Mike Thorne.
Washington State Patrol troopers didn’t have any serious incidents on state roads by Monday afternoon, trooper Keith Leary said.
Still, standing water on the road can pose serious dangers, he said.
Leary said he hoped Monday’s storm wasn’t a taste of what’s to come.
“We’re having an early preview to our winter. Its preparing us for the winter, for things to come, hopefully we won’t have a terrible winter,” he said.
Reporters David Chircop, Sharon Salyer and Lukas Velush contributed to this report.