First heavy rains drench county, swell rivers

SULTAN — Rachel Dejarnett watched dead tree limbs shoot down the latte-brown Skykomish River just 20 feet from the back door of her home Friday.

The river boiled past her two-story house on Dyer Road and by a lot of others in east Snohomish County.

Nearby Wagley Creek backed up with water. By lunch the overflow made the lawn squishy.

The couple planned to move furniture and other stuff stored in their garage to higher ground.

Her house is built on a foundation raised to avoid flooding, so she’s not nervous — yet.

She’s waiting and watching what the first significant storm of the season will do. So are emergency officials.

Heavy rain pushed Snohomish County rivers past their banks, shutting down roads and stranding some Sultan and Gold Bar residents Friday.

A warm, wet system stalled over Western Washington and the first major storm of the season hit Snohomish County particularly hard, said Ni Cushmeer, a senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Another system was forecast to arrive Friday night, but the worst should be over by early this morning, she said. The Snohomish River was expected to crest in Monroe on Friday night at 15.4 feet and early this morning in Snohomish at 27.16 feet.

Conditions should improve gradually today, with showers tapering off, Cushmeer said.

In Sultan, the Skykomish River crested around 4 p.m. at 16.4 feet Friday, flooding Sportsman Park and River Park in downtown Sultan as well as Birch Avenue to Third Street. The city opened a sand-bagging area behind its public works building at 703 First St.

Water filled creeks, ditches and low-lying fields. People walked to the edge of Main and First streets, taking photos and watching trucks churn through the water.

Just east of Sultan, the Skykomish River sent four feet of water across Mann Road.

Brandon Ellis, 23, spent his Friday morning towing his neighbors through the flood waters behind his father’s 1979 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.

The road is the only way to reach several dozen homes in the Skylight Tracks neighborhood south of Sultan. In previous floods, people have gotten stranded on one side or the other.

Friday morning, at least two cars stalled when drivers tried to cross the rising waters.

Ellis lives next to the river with his wife and their two baby girls. He worried that if the river rose much higher, even his biggest rig wouldn’t be able to traverse the water.

“The whole flood thing scares me,” he said. “I’ve got kids.”

His wife was home getting ready to move their children to higher ground.

Around noon, an official from the Snohomish County emergency management closed the road.

In Gold Bar, officials shut down a portion of 399th Avenue SE just past the bridge over the Wallace River. The river churned across the front lawn and driveway of one farmhouse. Across the road in another field, cows congregated on the only patch of land not covered with water.

Emergency management officials shouted across the waters asking if the homeowners wanted to get out. A woman came to the door and told officials no.

Up to 10 inches of rainfall have soaked parts of Snohomish County in the last 24 hours. More rainfall is expected through tonight and into tomorrow.

The storm has been unusually erratic with heavy rains coming and going and river levels quickly rising and falling. The yo-yoing weather has left emergency planners scratching their heads at what to expect next.

“This has definitely been the oddest weather system I’ve seen,” said John Pennington, Snohomish County’s director of Emergency Management.

The system hasn’t been a typical Pineapple Express, the name given to the notorious weather systems that have brought severe flooding in the past in Snohomish County, including record flooding in 2006. Instead a cold front moved in and warmer fronts stacked up behind that system.

“These fronts have dumped a lot of water,” said Mark Murphy, the county’s program manager for response and recovery.

The likelihood of heavy flooding was reduced because the county’s rivers levels were low when the storm began to break, Pennington said.

“If we’d had this event two weeks from now, we’d have been in a heap of trouble,” he said.

Emergency planners have been closely monitoring the weather and river levels since the beginning of October. They have been actively planning for fall flooding because of the uncertainty of the weather, Pennington said.

“That is paying off right now,” he said.

No major injuries or damage has been reported.

Fire crews found and rescued a homeless woman trapped by flood waters in Sultan on Friday morning.

A rescue crew in a boat found the woman stranded on a spit of land surrounded by the bloated Sultan River near First Street in downtown. The woman was taken to the hospital in Monroe to be treated for hypothermia.

Crews rescued another homeless woman Thursday night. She was stranded by rising waters at an encampment in Sultan, Fire District 5 Chief Merlin Halverson said.

By mid-morning, some of the homeless people who camp near the river had gathered under the Sultan Pizza and Sub Shop. Two men sat under the shop’s covered porch with bundled-up blue tarps, backpacks and several dogs.

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or

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