Residents along Pilchuck River begin flood cleanup

SNOHOMISH — Over the years, Billy and Jessica Yarbrough have learned a trick or two with each flood that has surged through their back yard and into their home.

The Snohomish-area couple has lived for a decade along the Pilchuck River, which makes a habit of spilling its banks most winters. The Yarbroughs and their neighbors on Sexton Road have lots of experience trying to lessen the brunt of the runaway river.

With Wednesday’s flood, Billy Yarbrough harnessed the current to squeegee silt from his driveway as the water receded. His diligence early on kept the silt from hardening on his property. Water got into his home and garage, and at one point lapped more than 2 feet high in the rooms downstairs.

Jessica Yarbrough used a household cleaner to purge walls, doors and other flat surfaces. The couple planned to bring out the bleach and dry out the house using the fireplace.

“We’re pros at this,” Billy Yarbrough said. “You can’t let this consume you.”

Wednesday’s floods, heavy winds and mud slides caused headaches for many Snohomish County homeowners, particularly along the Pilchuck. For some families near the riverbanks, it was a chance to reclaim their homes from the river’s pervasive debris.

The Yarbroughs keep their downstairs organized so they can quickly move their possessions to higher ground.

They also enlisted Grandma to watch their 3-year-old son, Spencer, so they could focus on the cleanup.

Charlie the dog, a chocolate Lab, taught the Yarbroughs a new lesson to remember next time they want to save their pets. If they want to keep the car dry, they’d better make sure they carry Charlie first. Otherwise, she will jump into the floodwaters and make a swim for it.

“She was afraid she’d miss a ride,” Billy Yarbrough said. “She’s just a bonehead.”

Even as the couple found humor in their ordeal, there were moments of resignation.

During the flood, Billy Yarbrough watched some of the family’s firewood float away. The next day, the avid fisherman spotted lots of freshly-hatched trout fry sprinkled in silt dumped in his backyard.

“We are losing bank every time,” he said while standing along the eroded riverbank.

Turning toward his house, he shook his head.

“What a mess,” he said. “Again.”

Across the river, Ron and Lavena Chapman were hosing down and cleaning up silt from their property along Orchard Avenue. The flood deposited in their yard a gas can, cycling ramp, flower pots and a basketball.

They, too, have their own time-tested game plans for when the floods come.

On Tuesday night, they monitored weather websites and used a stick to hourly track the rising river.

As the waters rose, they moved their RV to a parking lot on high ground. They carried their dogs, including 45-pound standard poodles Nova and Ellie, across the drink that spread over their yard. From their RV, they monitored river conditions on a laptop computer.

Lavena Chapman canceled work-related appointments knowing she would be working on trying to clean up the silt quickly.

“If you don’t get it when it’s wet then you have to chip it out,” she said.

Often, the whole neighborhood can be seen cleaning up the day after a flood, she said.

“It will be abuzz with power washers,” she said.

Lavena Chapman said working around the flood waters is worth the hassle because of the picturesque surroundings and wildlife she gets to see.

“Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year are great,” she said. “This is the price you pay for having such a great placed to live.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446,

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