Flooding leaves town battered and soaked

INDEX – In the little mountain town of Index, people said the smell of dampness hangs in the air.

The raging North Fork Skykomish River swept through town early this week, sending floodwaters into low-lying areas and forcing the main bridge into town to close for several days.

Many residents took the floods in stride.

“We’re so used to it,” said Lisa Stowe, the city clerk and treasurer.

Along the opposite shore, a few miles up the Index-Galena Road, the river took many homes in its stride.

Flooding near Index caused the worst road damage in the county, officials said Friday.

The homes that remained were badly damaged by trees, logs and roots that came rushing downstream.

Tim Beaver was evacuated from his cottage Monday. When he returned Tuesday, he found a 130-foot tree speared through his home.

“It skewered it like a toothpick through a martini olive,” he said.

Friends with shovels and chain saws were helping to clean up Friday.

The flood caused about $100,000 in damage to his property, Beaver said.

A few miles farther up the road, the river gnawed the banks back 15 feet and devoured two cabins, Chris Hall of Index said.

He’s lived in the area for 24 years and has watched as the river destroyed a community of cabins that once lined the river near his remote home.

“It worked like a saw blade” cutting back the banks and eating up people’s homes, Hall said.

At the foot of Hall’s driveway, crews blocked Index-Galena Road with orange cones.

Not far away, the river is running over the roadbed. That’s cut off access to a handful of cabins and the people who decided to ride out the storm there.

Snohomish County officials on Friday didn’t know precisely how much damage was done to Index-Galena Road, only that it’s extensive, said Steve Thomsen, county public works director.

“We’ve been trying to get Search and Rescue to get us in there,” he said Friday.

“We’ve had one flight in there. As near as we can tell, there’s several miles of damage along the highway. It’s probably the hardest hit road in all of Snohomish County as far as damage goes.”

Thomsen said repairs will easily reach several million dollars. The road may need to be completely rebuilt, which could take several months, he said.

Other roads fared better.

Blue Bridge, along the Mountain Loop Highway east of Verlot, has been sufficiently repaired to allow traffic to resume.

On Friday pumps began moving water out of flood basins and back into the river at French and Marshland Sloughs. Diking District 13 opened the floodgates, said Chris Badger, deputy director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

So far, the county has received word from people reporting roughly $500,000 in damage to their homes and possessions, she said.

That number likely will rise as people return to flooded areas, she said.

County officials are expecting damage from the flood to total in the millions.

Heavy rains forecast for the weekend likely will make cleanup a damp, messy process but are not expected to cause more flooding.

An American Red Cross shelter in Everett was scheduled to close this morning.

People returning to flooded homes are being urged to exercise caution.

“Nobody knows what was in that flood water. When you go to pull a wallboard back you never know what you will find,” Badger said.

Herald writer Lukas Velush contributed to this report.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@ heraldnet.com.

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