EVERETT — Looking out from the sandbagged walls near the Stanwood railroad tracks, you would think you were in Puget Sound.
Around 3 a.m., the town was hit by floodwater through the viaduct that travels under Highway 532, Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts said.
“There’s a wall of water along the edge of our town and several roads are underwater,” Roberts said.
Communities near the mouth of the Stillaguamish River remained flooded Wednesday in the aftermath of a major rainstorm. Emergency crews responded to at least 13 rescues, said Scott North, spokesperson for the county’s Department of Emergency Management.
After reaching a record high water mark around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday in Arlington, over 2 feet above a major flood stage, the river began receding. It was lucky timing: The Puget Sound tide had already been going out for two hours.
But there was nowhere for the floodwaters to go, the city’s mayor said. The only thing to do was wait it out in Stanwood, Silvana and the outlying farmland in the floodplain.
Meanwhile, the Snohomish River in the city of Snohomish appeared to stop swelling around 5 a.m. Wednesday, about 1½ feet before “major” flood stage, according to the National Weather Service. It was expected to remain at “moderate” flood stage for much of Wednesday. That river takes longer to crest, and recede, due to its many tributaries.
A massive downpour — over 6 inches in Darrington and Granite Falls in 24 hours — caused both of Snohomish County’s major river systems to spill over their banks around the county Tuesday, from Sultan to Stanwood.
County, fire and police crews grappled with the aftermath into the night. One of the more dramatic rescues came around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue heard reports of a man in a small aluminum boat with no oars and a headlamp going down the raging Skykomish River in Monroe, according to the fire department. The man had called 911 on his cell phone.
Fire crews staged downstream, at the Highway 522 overpass over the Snohomish River, hoping to catch the man and get him to grab onto a rope. Fire District 26 launched a drone to help find him.
Members of Snohomish Regional Fire, Fire District 4 and the sheriff’s office managed to get the man to grab on to a rope and give him instructions, fire officials said. The man swam to shore, while grasping onto stable trees in the river. Around 7:40 p.m., firefighters cut through thick blackberry bushes and pulled him to safety. The man had no shoes on, walked to an ambulance and was taken to a local hospital.
“Flooding rivers are extremely dangerous to enter,” the fire department wrote. “It is never advised to get into any boat or kayak when a river is running fast.”
The Red Cross also helped seven people whose homes flooded near the Arlington exit on Highway 530.
‘The whole farm is underwater’
Near the confluence of the Stillaguamish River’s north and south forks, about 50 acres of Linda Neunzig’s farm flooded.
“The whole farm is underwater,” said Neunzig, who is also Snohomish County’s agriculture coordinator.
She transported about 150 horses and sheep to safety. Her house is on stilts — an expensive lift, she said, but it saved the home this week. She was unsure how many total acres of farmland in the county were underwater Wednesday.
But local farmers are used to it.
“We all know how it works, we all know how to prepare,” she said.
Still, fences will need to be replaced. Flood waters will deposit silt, trees and other debris on the farm. Even after the water recedes, animals can’t live on saturated fields, she said.
“Everyone will see decreased production next year,” Neunzig said. “We’ve got people that do CSAs (aka Community Supported Agriculture Programs), that product is lost. The amount of cleanup it will take is huge.”
She warned that hay that takes on water can combust.
“You can stick your hand in a bale the next day and it’s hot in there,” she said. “So people, if they have hay that got wet, get it out of the barns and get it opened up.”
One person with five cows took advantage of the emergency stables at Evergreen Fairgrounds, Snohomish County spokesperson Rose Intveld said. The animals left Wednesday morning.
‘Once the water goes down’
John and Jane Torma have lived in a house near Silvana, by Pioneer Highway, for nearly decade.
According to the Tormas, the previous owners talked about flooding during negotiations but claimed the damage from the 2014 flood season was “unusual” and a “special set of circumstances.” Prior to the sale, the house was raised about 7 feet.
The retired couple paid for the house in cash and do not have flood insurance.
“We left Wisconsin to get rid of the snow,” John Torma said, chuckling. “But I think we could have dealt better with the snow.”
This week, they moved their cars, lawnmower and their Paso Fino horse Chary to higher ground before the water spilled over.
By Tuesday evening, the floodwaters from the Stillaguamish made it 3 to 4 feet up their garage door.
The couple has not been able to use their bathroom since last night.
“Once the water goes down, it usually takes two or three days to dry out because there’s still going to be water in there that needs to be pumped out,” John said. “But now we’re wondering when it’s going to go down.”
‘Call back tomorrow’
“Today is Wednesday, December 6th,” announced the voicemail message at Silvana Meats. “We are still closed due to flooding for cleanup. We will resume normal business hours tomorrow on Thursday, December 7th. If you have any questions please leave us a message. Otherwise a call back tomorrow will be your best bet. Thank you.”
As the water rose in Silvana, firefighters had asked residents to “leave or hunker down in place.” Silvana was built on an island carved out by the Stillaguamish River, and because of its precarious position, it saw some of the worst of the flooding.
On Wednesday, business owners were cleaning up.
Many roads between Stanwood and Silvana remained closed due to ponding water, according to the sheriff’s office. Larson Road was one of the few open routes into town.
“Thank you for calling Northwest Tack Consignment,” the store’s voice message said Wednesday. “We are closed due to flooding on all incoming roads. The inside of our building remains safe and dry.”
An employee who answered the phone at The Vault, a cannabis store in Silvana, said they were open.
In Snohomish, the Stocker Fields were fully flooded Wednesday morning. Around 8 a.m. Wednesday, Maria Martinez, who lived in the second-closest house to the field, was walking her child and niece to the bus stop.
She received a text that buses might be delayed.
“We’re definitely going to be late,” said a child at the bus stop. “School starts at 8:30 a.m.”
At 8:31 a.m., the kids saw the bus approach. They cheered and ran to line up.
On Old Snohomish Monroe Road, delivery driver Felipe Viafara couldn’t complete his route due to water over the road.
For the past three years, Viafara has been driving all over Washington.
“That’s rare. It’s the first time it’s happened to me,” he said in Spanish. “I sent a photo and canceled the delivery.”
Shortly afterward, another delivery driver had to stop his car in the same spot.
Flood warnings remained in effect Wednesday for the Skykomish River near Gold Bar and the Snohomish River near Monroe and the city of Snohomish.
New rain was expected to give way to showers later Wednesday. But it shouldn’t exceed 1 to 1½ inches in the Cascades and a quarter-inch in the lowlands, so the rivers weren’t expected to flood again, weather service meteorologist Jeff Michalski said in the afternoon.
Rain and showers were expected to continue through the weekend with the sun predicted to make brief appearances next week. After a few days of high temperatures above 50 degrees, Monday’s high for Everett was forecast to barely reach 40 degrees.
Landslides will still pose a threat, Michalski said.
A few small landslides have been reported to the weather service around Puget Sound. So far, there have been no reports of notable landslides in Snohomish County, according to the Department of Emergency Management. The county’s hazard database shows up to 60,000 local residents live alongside steep slopes.
According to the weather service, soil moisture remained at moderate levels, with drier weather coming.
For live updates
• See more river gauges online via the National Weather Service.
• The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office posted notable road closures on Twitter.