When the Stillaguamish River hit, Stanwood was ready

STANWOOD — Sandbags filled by students. Sweating city crews. Lots of community spirit.

That, and a little luck, saved downtown Stanwood from the Stilly once again.

Sandy Lindbeck at the Uff Da shop in the Viking Village along Highway 532 was impressed with the city’s flood preparation throughout the weekend.

The city’s sand and polyethylene berm kept floodwaters from crossing the highway and rushing down the hill and into her shop’s front door, Lindbeck said.

“I was so afraid, I couldn’t sleep all night. But I hung in there,” Lindbeck said. “With the help of volunteers, we sandbagged our shops on Sunday. Thank goodness, we didn’t need them. I can’t lose the Christmas business.”

Lindbeck, anxious about getting everything back in shape, said she planned to put some of her shop’s contents back on the floor Monday afternoon.

Her stolid Scandinavian sentiment was shared by Ron Backlund, who cleaned up the silt left by the flooding river at his home just west of Silvana.

Even before all the water had receded, Backlund already had pressure-washed the sides of the home he shares with his wife, Barbara. He cleaned his vinyl fences and began to wash down the Christmas trees growing in his Muskrat Flats tree farm.

“That’s the Norwegian in me,” Ron Backlund said. “I just gotta have things looking good.”

The Stillaguamish River came up in the middle of the night. It was as high as the winter flooding two years ago, but people had a little more warning this time, Barbara Backlund said.

“We’re cleaned up and will be open for tree sales the rest of this week,” she said. “But if you are heading this way, bring your boots just in case.”

Access to Silvana was cut off most of Monday because of deep floodwaters over the roads. Drivers stopped all along the hills above the river valley to snap pictures of the flooded Stilly.

Near the Highway 532 bridge to Camano Island, people on Leque Road were relieved not to have their houses filled with mud this year.

“I put everything up off the floor,” Ellen Lowell said. “I’m glad now that I can begin to put it back.”

At Stanwood City Hall, Mayor Dianne White sat among file boxes that had been placed on tables just in case the water rose in west downtown.

White was happy that most of the log debris in the Stillaguamish made its way out Hatt Slough to Port Susan. It also helped that the nearby Skagit River didn’t flood at the same time.

The mayor showed off a couple of black-and-white photos from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Flood waters surrounded her father’s veterinarian clinic near what is now Stanwood Middle School.

“When the Skagit goes, too, and the tide is up, that’s when we have the real problems,” White said, pointing to the pictures.

High school students and their families, alerted by the school district phone tree, worked into the evening filling sandbags Sunday. Meanwhile, White went door-to-door downtown, asking merchants to prepare for flooding.

“Then it was just sit and wait. Like waiting for a baby to be born,” White said. “(Deputy fire chief) Darin Reid did a great job organizing our emergency center. People worked hard. Ultimately, though, we just lucked out.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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