Flood season even more unpredictable this year

EVERETT — Friday and Saturday are supposed to be sunny, but the cloudy, rainy season is settling in.

Historically, Snohomish County most often sees flooding in November and December.

For the next months, the forecast looks warmer and drier than normal, but with plenty of room for fluctuation, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.

The first few rainstorms will be closely monitored in Snohomish County, where the path of the North Fork Stillaguamish River still is shifting after the March 22 mudslide in Oso.

Additional gauges have been added to the river east of Arlington to catch early signs of rising water, said Debbie Terwilliger, the Snohomish County Surface Water Management division director.

The river is still spreading itself back out, but it’s not as wide as it was, she said.

“Because of the capacity of the current river size, it’s sort of like there’s not as big a drain for the bathtub, so upstream we anticipate will flood more than it would have in the past,” she said.

Most problems are expected to be in the area immediately upstream of the slide, likely the same spots that flooded when the river was dammed, Weather Service hydrologist Brent Bower said.

Flooding forecasts for the slide area still are experimental, though, because there will be new river level thresholds for when it’s necessary to warn folks, Bower said.

“There’s a lot of monitoring going on and a lot of attention still being paid to it,” he said.

Folks who live in the area are being encouraged to consider flood insurance if they don’t have it already, Terwilliger said. The county also has been working with the Oso Fire District and the Army Corps of Engineers to coordinate their response for large storms.

There’s a chance of having an El Nino fall and winter, but so far more neutral conditions are predicted, said Johnny Burg, a Weather Service meteorologist. That could mean warmer conditions through February and less snow in the mountains as well.

Now’s a good time for people to figure out alternate routes between home and work in case of bad weather, Edmonds police Sgt. Mark Marsh said.

Neighbors also should keep leaves out of storm grates near their homes, said Brent Kirk, the Granite Falls public works director. In case of flooding, sand and sand bags will be available in the empty lot behind the library.

In Everett, crews are on standby when wet weather is expected, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

If flooding is predicted, people should move items off the floor and out of basements, she said. Sandbag supplies will be available at old Fire Station 4 off Mukilteo Boulevard at Forest Park, the parking lot on Alverson Boulevard across from Legion Park, and near Silver Lake Park, across from Fire Station 7.

People should never drive or walk in floodwaters, and they must remember that rivers remain dangerous, cold and unpredictable, said John Morton, a county sheriff’s swiftwater rescue volunteer.

“The lesson for everyone else is to treat the water as more hazardous, more disabling due to cold, more likely to pull you into the current, and more likely to keep you there, far more so than the water appears,” he said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Be prepared

  • Head for higher ground if a flood warning is issued for your area. Have a plan for pets and livestock. Have a full tank of gas and a charged cellphone.
  • Turn back if floodwaters become ankle-deep.
  • Don’t drive on flooded roads. Most cars can be swept away in less than two feet of water.
  • Be especially careful at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
  • Keep three days of water and food available, along with a flashlight, battery-powered radio with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, cellphone with spare batteries, family and emergency contact information, a blanket and medications.
  • Before returning to a flooded home, look for loose power lines, damaged gas lines and cracks to the foundation.
  • If power lines are down, don’t step in puddles or standing water.
  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and boots.
  • In Everett city limits, report flooding to 425-257-8821. For information about the recent ordinance regarding stormwater surcharges, visit www.everettwa.org/bwd.
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