Rising waters in Gold Bar behave in odd ways

GOLD BAR — When Dick and Loretta Magnuson bought their house in a new riverfront development here neighbors assured them floodwaters would never reach their door.

Now they are not so sure.

They spent Wednesday watching the Wallace River roil past the yard behind their trim yellow home on the outskirts of town. Not far away, three homes on the street still had for sale signs with this inducement: “Riverfront access.”

“We can hear it roaring by,” Loretta Magnuson said, as she eyeballed the frothy water rushing past the edge of their yard. “We normally can’t hear it.”

In Gold Bar, two tributaries to the Skykomish River were rising fast and spreading over their banks this morning Officials are concerned

This is a town usually unfazed by flooding. A combination of saturated ground, melting snow and rivers pathways clogged with debris have officials worried that the Wallace River and May Creek could forge new channels, flooding areas where waters don’t usually go.

By mid morning, the Wallace River had spilled over its banks, sending slate-colored tendrils into dips and drops around the river’s edge. The water claimed squatter’s rights to back yards and some residential streets.

At least one city officials reported seeing an outbuilding, perhaps a shed, floating by. Wood debris, including a massive Douglas fir, with root ball still attached, bobbed down the churning river.

On Moonlight Drive, Nick Loesch prepared to take his 4-year-old, Markus, for a walk in the rain. This road usually floods and Loesch can point to the high spot, just below his neighbor’s driveway. Water already ringed half a dozen homes on this street. The water was so high it nearly lapped at mailboxes.

One of Loesch’s neighbors had fashioned a makeshift pontoon craft of Styrofoam and other materials. Loesch seemed completely unconcerned about the water. He said he’s convinced it would take flood so large that it would only happen once in 1 million years for the water to reach his house.

Most of his neighbors are adept and sloshing back and forth to their homes or driving through high waters, he said.

“It’s really deep,” Markus Loesch told his dad. Still, the boy begged for a closer look.

Just outside town, the river was out its banks, flowing into nearby farmlands and had already surrounded a house. Near a bridge, Gold Bar Mayor Crystal Hill climbed out of her truck and surveyed the river bubbling over the road.

On Tuesday night, officials hand delivered about 60 letters to people in neighborhoods along the Wallace River. The city also sent a telephone alert using the 911 system, warning those living around the river to be prepared for flooding in areas that normally don’t.

“When we get debris like this there is the possibility of the flood path changing,” Hill said.

While the volume of water in the river wasn’t unusual, the speed that the flooding came up seems unusual, Hill said. There are no river gauges on either the Wallace River of May Creek, and that makes it impossible for officials to accurately monitor rising flood waters.

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