Don’t put away the sandbags yet.
Snohomish County rivers are expected to hit flood stage beginning early Wednesday and forecasters warn the water will be much higher than last week.
The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued a flood watch for all of Western Washington, including the Skykomish, Snohomish and Stillaguamish rivers.
A series of storm fronts is expected to hit the region, in places dropping up to a foot of rain late today and early Wednesday, said Dennis D’Amico, a weather service meteorologist in Seattle.
The first storm is expected to pour up to 4 inches of rain over the mountains and Western Washington followed by high winds early today. Snow should begin falling at about 4,000 feet elevation, but the freezing level is expected to jump to about 6,000 feet by late today.
A second, stronger front with a twist of tropical moisture is forecast to bring warming and spread heavier rain across the area. The combination of a strong westerly wind and plenty of moisture is expected to produce heavy rains into Wednesday morning. The National Weather Service has forecast 8 to 14 inches of rain.
“The real whopper is coming Wednesday,” said John Pennington of Snohomish County Emergency Management. “What’s becoming clear is that last week was a preparedness event and this week will unfortunately be a response event.”
Emergency responders are anticipating the need for search and rescue operations and the opening of shelters for displaced people.
The first storm will bring challenges; the second likely will bring major trouble, Pennington said.
“I don’t say these things lightly: The one behind this is a tropical storm and it is huge,” he said.
People who live around flood-prone areas should make sure they have emergency supplies and make plans to evacuate if the river begins to rise. People who need sandbags should contact their local fire district, said Tammy Doherty, deputy director.
Last week’s storm proved unpredictable for the county’s emergency officials, who could not be sure where or how much rain would fall.
To avoid a repeat, county officials met with the National Weather Service on Monday to gather better data on what’s ahead this week.
Current predictions are that the Skykomish River near Gold Bar will hit flood stage Wednesday morning and peak at 17 feet in the afternoon. The Snohomish River at Monroe is forecast to flood Wednesday afternoon and peak that night at 19.53 feet. At Snohomish, the river is expected to jump its banks Wednesday afternoon and peak at 30.02 feet Thursday morning.
That is well below the 33.5 feet record set during the devastating flood of 1990, and the 33.49 feet that tore up railroad tracks and covered Highway 9 during the Election Day flood of 2006.
Still, at more than 30 feet, flooding from the Snohomish River can be expected to flood low farmlands and several roads, including Riverview Road and the old Snohomish-Monroe Highway.
People living in the Arlington area along the main stem of the Stillaguamish River should expect the river to hit flood stage early Wednesday at 17.5 feet. Meteorologists are predicting flooding along the South Fork Stillaguamish River on Wednesday morning peaking that afternoon at 14.65 feet. The North Fork Stillaguamish River is to predicted to rise just below flood stage Wednesday.
In Sultan, along the Skykomish River, the city is expecting a dump-truck load of sand to be delivered today. The city opened a sand-bagging area behind its public works building at 703 First St.
“If people want to get prepared, there’ll be bags on hand,” said Connie Dunn, Sultan public works director.
Volunteers of America in Sultan will open a shelter Wednesday night if the river spills its banks, said Dave Wood, director of east county services. The nonprofit opened its doors to a handful of people who live by the river after the Skykomish flooded last week.
“If it rises more than it did last time, we’ll have trailers and houses flooded,” Wood said.
If more than about a dozen people need the shelter’s services, the Red Cross can come in and provide hot meals and additional help.
In Arlington, city crews spent Monday clearing drains and running street sweepers to get debris out of the way.
A dump truck load of sand sat ready to be bagged in Gold Bar.
And in Sultan, shelters and another mountain of sand are ready.
It could be worse, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis D’Amico.
The area around Mount Rainier National Park and southwest of the Olympic Mountains is expected to take the brunt of the storm, he said.
“Luckily, it’s still early in the season,” he said. “There isn’t much snowpack. We aren’t talking about unleashing a hidden water source.”
Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.