Flooding river claims a house; water receding

GOLD BAR — Their place on the Wallace River was peaceful, but they knew it wasn’t permanent.

When they moved into the Gold Bar-area house, Laurie Fenner and Joe Abele were warned that the river was undercutting the bank. They lost most of the house a half-dozen years ago.

They stayed on the property in a 37-foot travel trailer. Nobody came to inspect the house, so they still could use what was left: the laundry room and the bathroom.

On Monday, that and the remainder of a concrete slab went into the drink. So did the neighbor’s house.

The neighbor, a man believed to be in his 70s, is out of town and doesn’t have a cellphone, Fenner said. On Tuesday she was dreading seeing his face when he gets home and sees his place gone.

Their neighborhood along 150th Street SE borders Wallace Falls State Park. Nearly all of Snohomish County’s rivers flooded Monday but receded into their banks as night fell, leaving swaths of soggy damage.

That’s except for the Snohomish River near Snohomish, which stayed above flood stage until Tuesday afternoon. Upstream, the Snoqualmie River still was flooding Tuesday evening.

“That water will push down toward Duvall and into the Snoqualmie Valley, so we’ve basically got another day’s worth of high water, but the immediate danger is done,” said John Pennington, the county’s director of emergency management.

The Snohomish could stay high for days, Pennington said.

“We’re just going to see water for a while,” he said. “It gets up and it stays up.”

More than a dozen area roads remained closed Tuesday due to flooding, including throughout the Tualco Valley. The most serious closure was Sultan Basin Road after Olney Creek washed out approximately 200 feet of asphalt, Pennington said.

The route provides access to Spada Lake, which provides drinking water to much of the county. The fix could take months, Pennington said.

More damage reports are expected as the flood waters retreat. People and businesses can report uninsured flood damage at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/dem.

The heavy rain also kept a landslide warning in place in much of Western Washington, particularly along steep slopes and coastal bluffs.

The flooding damaged homes along the Pilchuck River between Snohomish and Granite Falls. The Pilchuck on Tuesday still inundated front yards and crawl spaces. In Oso, a swollen Deer Creek threatened to overtake Highway 530 west of the mudslide site on Monday. County crews and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have stabilized the creek bank, Pennington said.

The rainstorm hit a bull’s-eye in the foothills above Monroe and Sultan, dumping up to 7.56 inches in places between noon Sunday and noon Monday, said Josh Smith a National Weather Service meteorologist.

“Most of the areas over there got 6 to 8 inches,” he said.

The lowlands, particularly south of Paine Field, got less than an inch.

On Tuesday, though, flood waters lapped over the Old Snohomish-Monroe Road near downtown Snohomish. City workers checking on a manhole pointed to a high-water mark — grime on the tires of a parked car. It was clear the river had dropped at least a foot.

Woods Creek north of Monroe rushed fast and strong, spilling its banks in places.

Back in Gold Bar, Fenner and Abele, who are in their 50s, were considering renting a storage unit. Other than a desk and an old-school box TV, they don’t own much, Fenner said.

“None of our stuff is high-cost stuff,” she said. “We live very simply. Our animals are the major thing we worry about.”

Nearly all of their pets — including dogs, cats, horses, a pig and a rabbit — are rescues. The couple own three acres but are hesitant to build a new house from scratch. The former owner brought in riprap twice, using rocks to shore up the bank.

“We went down to the river this morning. It’s sad,” Fenner said. “We can see (the neighbor’s) items are strewn everywhere on a pile of broken logs.”

The couple’s stand-alone garage is expected to go into the river before long, too. The county has told them not to go inside.

They awoke during the storm to the sound of boulders thundering past in the river below. Hundred-foot trees slammed against the bank, tearing out chunks of earth, Fenner said.

“That river is amazing,” she said. “It’s like a wild animal. I love it. I love that river. I won’t leave the river.”

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

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