Rivers are expected to keep rising

MONROE — Bob Wolf is having a winter Job could understand.

November brought floods. December snow crushed his greenhouses. Now, rising flood waters again threaten his nursery business and livestock.

What’s next, locusts?

“I’ve been doing this 33 years,” said Wolf, who owns Monroe Aquatic Nursery. “The word ‘tired’ is starting to enter my mind.”

He spent Wednesday loading his four zebras and two horses into a trailer and driving them to an emergency shelter at the fairgrounds in Monroe. He keeps the animals on the nearly 60 acres he owns along the Skykomish River. After watching the river inch upward Wednesday morning past stakes he set up, he knew it was time to get his animals to high ground.

Just about anyone living near a river or creek in east Snoho­mish County had their eye on rising waters. The Snohomish River at Snohomish was forecast to peak Thursday night above 33 feet. At that level, flood waters can be expected to overtop levees and inundate much of the valley. The record is 35.5 feet.

In Snohomish, officials planned to monitor flood levels overnight, city manger Larry Bauman said.

“We are still unsure when the river is going to crest and what level,” he said.

Snohomish already closed all three parks along the river and a portion of Lincoln Street near the river, blocking off the road with concrete blocks. The city has a problem with drivers ignoring the “road closed” signs and getting stuck. The city doesn’t have a water rescue craft and has to call on Monroe.

A self-serve sandbagging area is available Ferguson Park Road near 14th Street, he said. Bags are available next door at the fire district building.

The Snohomish River at Monroe was expected to crest this afternoon, about a foot below the record level set in 1990. Forecasting models show the flood waters will be slow to retreat.

Snohomish County opened a temporary shelter for livestock at the fairgrounds and by Wednesday afternoon, about 70 horses, Wolf’s zebras and two goats were hunkered down in the barns.

Jim Clough had taken the day off to help shuttle horses from Old Maple Farm on Tester Road, near the confluence of the Snohomish and Snoqualmie Rivers. He boards five of his horses there, including Dakota, a handsome quarterhorse who nudged Clough’s arm through the stall bars.

“We couldn’t do it if this place wasn’t here,” he said.

In the Tualco Valley, the Snoqualmie River turned Tualco Loop Road into two dead ends. It spread across farmland and gushed over Crescent Lake Road. Further up the Monroe-Duvall Road, rain had transformed a creek along a hillside into a gushing waterfall.

Cities upstream started taking their lumps Wednesday.

In Gold Bar, two tributaries to the Skykomish River rose fast and spread over their banks Wednesday morning.

This is a town usually unfazed by flooding, but a combination of saturated ground, pelting rain and river pathways clogged with debris had officials worried. They feared that the Wallace River and May Creek could carve 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 official reported seeing an outbuilding, perhaps a shed, floating by. Wood debris, including a massive Douglas fir, with root ball attached, bobbed down the churning river.

On Moonlight Drive, Nick Loesch prepared to take his 4-year-old son, 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.

One of Loesch’s neighbors had fashioned a makeshift pontoon craft of Styrofoam and other materials. Loesch seemed unconcerned about the water. He said he’s convinced it would take a 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 asked for a closer look.

Just outside town, the river was over 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.

The Wallace had taken one woman’s farmhouse hostage, cutting her access to the main road. A city official called to check on her safety. She told the official she was fine and had a back-up plan: Her neighbor would come get her with his tractor.

While the volume of water in the river wasn’t unusual, the speed with which the flood came was a surprise, Hill said.

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

On Wednesday, they had doubts.

They passed the time 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.”

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com.

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