The drive up to Mary Fuentes’ farm is washed out and full of potholes on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. Fuentes was unable to drive out of her property due to the damage, but is within walking distance of her brother’s house. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The drive up to Mary Fuentes’ farm is washed out and full of potholes on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. Fuentes was unable to drive out of her property due to the damage, but is within walking distance of her brother’s house. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

‘As the water recedes,’ Snohomish County grapples with record flood

County Executive Dave Somers signed the order Wednesday, as communities remained flooded at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River.

EVERETT — Snohomish County issued an emergency proclamation for the record flooding on the Stillaguamish River and elsewhere around the county.

The proclamation opens up “public funds to take reasonable and prudent measures ensuring the safety of residents and waives some administrative requirements in order to expedite response efforts,” according to a press release Thursday.

County Executive Dave Somers signed the declaration as communities at the mouth of the Stillaguamish remained flooded by a major storm.

Upriver, towns along Highway 530 and the Mountain Loop Highway saw 6 inches of rain. After reaching a record high water level around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday in Arlington, over 2 feet above a major flood stage, the river began receding.

Fortunately, the Puget Sound tide had already been going out for two hours, and the two bodies of water weren’t reaching their peaks at the same time.

‘Be ready for a flood anytime’

Mary Fuentes, who grew up and still lives in Silvana, turns towards her property and explains the extent of the flooding across her land on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Mary Fuentes, who grew up and still lives in Silvana, turns towards her property and explains the extent of the flooding across her land on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Spencer Fuentes, 58, grew up on the Hazel Blue Acres Blueberry Farm in Silvana. Late Thursday morning, he was busy cleaning up the driveway in preparation for an open house Saturday. His dog Oakley, a black Lab, splashed in the big puddles.

Fuentes had moved the cars and farm equipment to a high point.

At noon Tuesday, a current of water swept over the driveway.

Now, they can drive in and out.

The farmstand is usually open Tuesday, so they lost about $1,000 in revenue. It will take a week to rebuild some destroyed fencing. Fuentes will wait until flood season ends. Having lived in the farm all his life, he knows preparation is key.

“It’s never a good idea to wait until the day of the flood to try to do stuff,” he said. “My method of operation is to be ready for a flood anytime from the end of October until the end of January.”

His first vivid memory of a flood was in December 1975, when the water crested at 18¾ feet. Cows were killed and the river stayed up for three days.

“As a child, I thought floods were the greatest thing ever,” Fuentes said. “My perspective as an adult is quite different.”

But the 1975 flood was dwarfed by more recent events.

“Since 2003, all have been over 20 feet. We’ve had five 100-year floods in 20 years,” he said. “But I’m not going anywhere.”

Fuentes’ siblings, Mary and Ward Fuentes, bought a neighboring cow farm in June. Mary Fuentes lives in the farm full-time. She brought the cows to higher ground and brewed tea to await the storm. Her family called asked — and asked again — if she needed anything

“Well, there’s nothing we can do now,” she told them.

Her driveway was destroyed, but she hopes to be able to fix it, as well as her fences, in a day or two.

‘It’s going to get bad fast’

A vehicle turns onto 212th Street NE and crosses over a small amount of water on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A vehicle turns onto 212th Street NE and crosses over a small amount of water on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Silvana postal clerk Debbie Johnson said Snohomish County Fire District 19 Chief Keith Strotz entered the post office at 11:30 a.m. and told her to evacuate. The river was “coming in wild and fast,” she recalled.

Once Pioneer Highway reopened Wednesday, Johnson brought mail from nearby Stanwood.

Justin Gaines, who works in Silvana, was also advised to evacuate Tuesday.

“Hey, are you ready to get out of here?” a firefighter asked Gaines.

“Hey, it’s not that bad yet,” Gaines replied.

“It’s going to get bad fast,” the firefighter responded.

When he left, the water was at least 18 inches high. He tried to go back an hour later, but the water was up to his knees. He decided to turn around. That’s when he saw a dumpster floating by and a neighbor on a kayak.

Emergency crews responded to at least 13 rescue calls due to the floods, said Scott North, spokesperson for the county’s Department of Emergency Management.

Meanwhile, homes and farmland were inundated, particularly along the main stem of the Stilly.

‘Mud and silt’

Winter wheat growing on a farm shows its roots after erosion caused by heavy flooding on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Winter wheat growing on a farm shows its roots after erosion caused by heavy flooding on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

On Thursday, National Weather Service meteorologist Reid Wolcott said river levels were decreasing “pretty much everywhere” in the county.

“There are no locations within Snohomish County that are above flood levels right now,” he said.

There will be a break in the weather system Friday, with lowland rain and mountain snow resuming Saturday, Wolcott said.

“We are not expecting additional river flooding or anything like that,” Wolcott said. “The system is more of a typical winter storm system for our region.”

The county Department of Emergency Management tweeted Thursday morning: “As flooded Snohomish County rivers continue to drop, the focus is shifting toward recovery.”

A spokesperson for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office noted several rescues this week. The first, in the Granite Falls area, was at the start of the flooding, before the road closed. The person was rescued and not fined.

Another two had driven around “road closed” signs. Everyone was rescued, but they were issued $432 fines.

‘As the water recedes’

Spencer Fuentes, of Hazel Blue Acres, holds a photo given to him of the flooding near his property on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Spencer Fuentes, of Hazel Blue Acres, holds a photo given to him of the flooding near his property on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

In Arlington, city spokesperson Sarah Lopez said officials were evaluating damage.

“Damage is limited to some mud and silt that needs to be cleaned up,” she said. But Stormwater Wetlands Park had yet to be assessed for infrastructure safety. Country Charm Park would probably not be accessible for a few more days.

In the Snohomish River valley, floods had less of an impact, said Dan Bartelheimer, president of the Snohomish County Farm Bureau.

“This was a minor flood event without much damage,” he said. “The fields and farms are protected by dikes. The Snohomish River was less than three feet above flood stage. Substantial flood damages usually are not incurred until the river is three or four feet higher.”

Snohomish County spokesperson Kent Patton said it was too early to give an overall damage estimate. Patton said in an email there was damage to “a couple” of county roads, but the assessment was not complete.

“We are declaring an emergency to ensure we can quickly respond to any needs as the water recedes,” he wrote.

The proclamation is necessary to get state and federal dollars, Patton noted, “if they become available.”

“Many families, businesses, and communities have been impacted by the floods this week and more rain continues to fall,” Somers said in the news release. “Therefore, I’ve declared an emergency to ensure we have every tool available to us. For cities and other agencies who have responded to the flooding, please know that we will be there to assist in any way we can. We’ll get through this together.”

It’s business as usual along Pioneer Highway on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

It’s business as usual along Pioneer Highway on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, after extensive flooding from the Stillaguamish River in Silvana, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The proclamation directs county departments “to mitigate and prevent impacts” to public and private infrastructure.

County officials were asking the public to fill out a Flood Impact Survey.

Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046; jordan.hansen@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jordyhansen.

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

Aina de Lapparent Alvarez: 425-339-3449; aina.delapparentalvarez@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @Ainadla.

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