Local rivers flood; mudslide, falling trees damage homes

EVERETT — A mudslide wiped out one house and caused serious damage to another near Port Susan.

A couple in their 70s saw half their retirement home disappear into the swollen Pilchuck River.

A woman in Everett took cover when the tall evergreen in her yard slammed into her roof.

Beneath a deceiving facade of white clouds and sunny sky, a nasty concoction of mudslides, flooding and wind gusts on Wednesday created pockets of mayhem across Snohomish County.

More than 4,600 customers lost electricity. Passenger train service was canceled between Everett and Seattle. Stevens Pass was closed for most of the day because of snow slides and avalanche fears.

As evening approached, there was some concern that the flooding Pilchuck and Snohomish rivers could conspire to make a mess in the valley where they meet.

Early Wednesday afternoon, emergency crews responded to a report of a major slide in the McKees Beach area, south of Warm Beach, in northwest Snohomish County.

The slide was reported about 12:30 p.m., said Christian Davis, a battalion chief with the North County Regional Fire Authority.

The hillside slid about 100 feet, destroying a home and seriously damaging another, Davis said. Both houses may have been pushed off their foundations.

“It totally crushed one of them, and the other one’s pretty buried,” Davis said.

A housekeeper was in the less-damaged home when the slide started, but she was able to get out safely.

“It was very fortunate. Nobody got hurt,” Davis said. “All the pets were accounted for and taken out of the homes. It’s a beautiful place to live, but it’s just a sad situation when Mother Nature shows her force.”

Wednesday also was a sad time for Clayton and Catherine Bess.

The Pilchuck River gobbled up half their house Wednesday from an erosion-prone area in the Lochsloy community off Highway 92 between Lake Stevens and Granite Falls.

The garage remained on dry land but much of the living quarters was reduced to debris and scattered down the river. Part of the foundation was hanging over the river’s edge.

“It was heartbreaking,” Catherine Bess, 72, said. “It feels like a funeral. It is just really sad to watch it.”

The couple recently moved to their daughter’s home in Everett when it became apparent the river eventually would claim the home they moved into 12 years ago. When they first settled there, the river was about 150 feet away from the house, she said.

It was the second time they have been forced to move away. They had to sell their home of 35 years in Everett to make way for a new fire station.

Their next home will not be near water or on a hill, Bess said.

The Pilchuck and other renegade rivers were jumping from their banks Wednesday after a storm dumped several inches of rain on the central Cascades.

The National Weather Service in Seattle figured there would be moderate flooding through Wednesday night.

“The worst of it was over basically this morning,” weather service meteorologist Dennis D’Amico said.

However, the water-logged ground increases the possibility of mudslides for the next few days, weather officials said.

The rain is expected to taper off overnight, and Thursday should be mostly dry, D’Amico said. A fresh weather system moving in Friday could bring a dump of snow in the mountains and the potential of snow showers in the lowlands.

“We still want residents to pay attention to the conditions, including the potential for landslides, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” said Jason Biermann, a program manager for the county’s Department of Emergency Management.

The Pilchuck River was the source of most of the flood-related headaches Wednesday.

Dubuque Creek, a tributary to the Pilchuck, caused havoc for a small neighborhood in the Machias area, leaving people there stranded when a stretch of their private road was washed away.

Christopher Ames, 37, was stuck at home with his wife and five children. About 10 feet of gravel road was washed away by the creek and vehicles are unable to cross, he said.

Neighbors can walk out, but the nearest convenience store is about two miles away.

“We are stuck here,” Ames said.

He was unable to go to work and his four school-aged children couldn’t attend classes.

The neighbors are scheduled to get together and plan how to repair their private road.

“We’ll get it fixed,” Ames said. “How we are going to do it? I don’t know.”

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The Stillaguamish River reached flood stage at Arlington just before 6 a.m. Wednesday. It was dropping by midday, although the river claimed low-lying fields in the usual places.

The Snohomish River was expected to crest around midnight.

Clary Douwes was one of a few people Wednesday out walking a trail along the river in downtown Snohomish.

“I’m seeing a lot of tree branches and debris in the river,” she said.

At nearby Pilchuck Park, Pat Bjerkan took pictures of a flooded volleyball court and the tops of picnic tables.

A federal grant allowed the city to move playground equipment at Pilchuck Park to higher ground across the street. The city often moves public works equipment to the library during floods and that was possible on Wednesday, city manager Larry Bauman said.

More than seven inches of rain fell over parts of the central Cascades during the past two days. That included more than four inches at Stevens Pass, which was closed most of Wednesday morning because of snow slides and avalanche danger. The ranger station at Skykomish recorded nearly five inches of precipitation.

Sound Transit train service between Seattle and Everett was canceled Wednesday after a mudslide along the tracks.

Gusty winds sent tree limbs down on wires, leaving around 4,600 households without power early Wednesday morning, said Neil Neroutsos, spokesman for the Snohomish County PUD. The outages were scattered. Areas affected included Tulalip, Lynnwood, Mukilteo and Maltby. By 9 a.m. crews had restored power to most of the homes, he said.

Diana Patterson of Everett saw firsthand the havoc those winds could cause.

She was making her coffee in her kitchen in the 1700 block of Pine Street around 7:50 a.m. when a towering Norwegian spruce fell onto her roof.

“I could see my huge tree coming toward me,” she said. “… It was coming straight at me. It was so frightening.”

She retreated to a doorway and her cat, Chela, scampered off.

The tree was about 40 years old and up to 70 feet tall.

Patterson, the director for an Eastern Washington University master’s in social work programs, had to call her colleagues at Everett Community College to say she wouldn’t be attending a Wednesday morning meeting. Instead, she was talking to her insurance agent.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a seven-member team with materials and equipment to make emergency repairs to the Union Slough levee near Everett.

Because the rain let up, there were fewer roadways under water around Snohomish County by Wednesday afternoon, said trooper Keith Leary with the Washington State Patrol.

Urban flooding was subsiding, but dangers still lurk, he said.

He reminded drivers not to ignore road closure signs.

“You could face a fine, but you could also face losing your life in deep flood waters,” he said.

Firefighters in north county rescued one person from a vehicle surrounded by flood waters. That happened late Tuesday along 44th Avenue NW, south of the county line.

Earlier Tuesday, a west Stanwood resident was trapped in her home in the 27100 block of 98th Ave NW.

She told firefighters her pump could not keep up with the water, Davis said. Crews quickly pumped down the large amount of water while Twin City Foods donated pallets allowing for a dry path to be made from the home to the sidewalk.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

Alejandro Dominguez and Debra Smith contributed to this story.

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