Snow a disaster for Monroe nursery

MONROE — Bob Wolf is patiently waiting for his nightmare to finish melting.

It started a week ago, when the snow fell so fast and furious at his business, Monroe Aquatic Nursery, he couldn’t keep it from accumulating on the greenhouses.

He spent the night sprinting from one greenhouse to the next, frantically loosening the stuff with a long push broom, stopping only long enough to warm his hands back to feeling in his truck.

It was to no avail. By the time the sun started to creep over the Cascades, nearly 2 feet of snow had fallen.

And then Wolf heard a snap.

Like one horrible domino chain, his main greenhouse — the one from which he operated his retail store — began collapsing, one framing hoop at a time.

A puff of white, powdery snow lingered in the air for a moment when it was all through.

“I sat down and cried,” Wolf said Friday. “I was tired and overwhelmed and cold.”

In total, Wolf knows he lost a $40,000 greenhouse and a warehouse that insurance doesn’t cover, plus the merchandise. Until the snow finishes melting, it will be too dangerous to catalog the damage inside, he said. He knows for sure he lost several tropical palms that cost $1,000 apiece — they’re poking through the roof of the greenhouse like a couple of No. 2 pencils.

Wolf will get his melt, but officials warn that Snohomish County now has a new worry — flooding.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for most of Western Washington, including Snohomish County, through Sunday morning.

A strong, wet Pacific storm is expected, and with it, warming temperatures. A combination of winds from the south, milder temperatures and rain on top of the snow on the ground should cause a fairly rapid snow melt across the lowlands below 2,000 feet through the weekend, the weather service warns. The forecast calls for more rain.

That could lead to treacherous conditions on roadways. The Washington state Department of Transportation encouraged drivers to be cautious, especially of standing water.

Most side streets remained choked with melting snow and slush Friday, while the main roadways were relatively clear, said Keith Leary, Washington State Patrol spokesman. Highway 9 near Arlington still had a lot of snow on the road Friday. He warned drivers that melting snow and slush could cause problems.

He had firsthand experience driving through a slushy, sloppy bit of roadway.

“I hit a slushy patch and it took my steering wheel and pushed it to one side,” he said.

The roads still are bad enough drivers need to keep both hands on the steering wheel and their full attention on the road.

The rain and melting snow could cause flooding in urban areas and in small streams. That’s most likely in areas where a foot or more of snow was on the ground, the Weather Service alert said. Drains clogged by snow and ice could send melting waters into city streets, homes and businesses.

Officials declared a state of emergency in Snohomish County and Gov. Chris Gregoire proclaimed a state of emergency statewide. The governor’s proclamation directs state government to support emergency response activities in affected areas. It also authorizes the activation of the Washington National Guard and the Washington State Guard.

In the mountains, that same Pacific storm is expected to dump up to 3 feet of snow by early Sunday. The weather service issued a Winter Storm Warning effective for the North and Central Cascades through 6 a.m. Sunday.

An alert also has been issued about high avalanche danger.

County officials have opened an emergency operations call center to help public works with weather-related calls. People living in the county’s unincorporated areas with road-plowing or weather-related concerns can call 425-388-5060 for assistance.

Meanwhile, Bob Wolf, the nurseryman with a collapsed greenhouse, is cleaning up and taking care of the four zebras and other assorted animals he keeps on his nursery’s 60 acres.

A few bright spots: the greenhouse with his tanks of 5,000 fish survived the storm fine. So did the 10 acres of ornamental trees he grows.

He plans to reopen when it warms up, probably in mid-February.

“God, no,” he said about closing. “I’d never let that happen.”

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or

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