Water closes streets, floods businesses and homes

January 8, 2009

By Staff

UPDATED — 1:20 p.m. Jan. 8, 2009

Tibbetts and Issaquah creeks were cresting at 8 a.m. and water from them will be flowing through Issaquah over the next several hours. The forecast is calling for more rain.

Block your basement drains and evacuate your home if needed. Do not leave animals at home if you evacuate. The Seattle Humane Society has temporary shelter ready to provide safety and care for them. Call 641-0080.

Do not walk, wade or drive in flooded areas. Report storm water issues or request delivery of sand and bags by calling Public Works Operations at 837-3470. The city is accepting calls for sand and bags 24 hours a day during this flooding.

See a map of road closures here.

Sisters Jennifer Davies, Julianne Long and Mindy Heintz (from left) retrieve belongings Jan. 8 from the toppled guesthouse at the home of their parents, Jack and Karen Brooks, beside Issaquah Creek in the 23300 block of Southeast May Valley Road. — By Greg Farrar

Sisters Jennifer Davies, Julianne Long and Mindy Heintz (from left) retrieve belongings Jan. 8 from the toppled guesthouse at the home of their parents, Jack and Karen Brooks, beside Issaquah Creek in the 23300 block of Southeast May Valley Road. — By Greg Farrar

Residents haven’t been in need of a shelter yet, according to Brenda Bramwell, president of the Issaquah Citizen Corps Council.

“We’re ready to help if a shelter is established,” she said.

Still, the council did receive emergency requests early this morning. Between midnight and 6 a.m., about 10 citizen volunteers helped deliver sandbags to residents in four locations in the city.

Kim Wilson, a customer service manager at Sterling Savings bank branch on Gilman Boulevard arrived at 8 a.m. to find the bank’s lobby under two inches of water.

“I got here and there was water everywhere,” she said.

The sound of circuit breakers crackling could be heard in the darkened bank. At the bank’s entrance stood an antique milk jug from an antique store across the street.

The sheer force of the rising waters from Issaquah Creek moved milk jugs and large commercial trash bins.

A lone white pickup truck was buried in water at the parking lot of Lombardi’s, which also was flooded. Lombardi’s and all of the other businesses at Gilman Square sustained flood damage. Across the parking lot, the Schuck’s Auto Supply store and the Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell restaurant were under water and cordoned off by yellow tape.

Patty Green, owner of Sisters Antique, was putting sand in sandbags Wednesday night in anticipation of high waters.

“I certainly didn’t expect it to be this bad,” she said, estimating her store had about two to three inches of standing water.

Gilman Boulevard was closed at 12th Avenue Northwest to Issaquah Creek early Thursday morning and was reopened later in the morning as floodwaters receded.

The former site of the Tiger Mountain Grill restaurant was under water and the parking lot of Gilman Village was dotted with traffic cones alerting motorists to high water.

On Northeast Dogwood Street, residents living near the creek were examining the damage from the floodwaters. The street was coated in mud, ankle deep near the curbs.

Andrew Fawcett, who lives on the third floor of the Bavarian Condominiums, said he was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a television news helicopter.

“I looked down and saw about 15 people frantically sandbagging,” he said. “This caught us by surprise.”

Fawcett, his cousin Todd Fawcett and Todd’s 2-year-old son James were planning to go to Fall City later in the day to check on family members.

The guest house of Jack and Karen Brooks, at 23321 Southeast May Valley Road, fell into Issaquah Creek this morning. Their daughter, Julianne Long, 43, was living in the 600-square-foot structure at the time. She was not in the home when it fell into the creek this morning at about 4:30 a.m.

“This is not a happy day for us,” Jack Brooks said. “This is just terrible. I had no idea this could happen. It took out all the rip rap. We had the creek lined with big rocks to prevent erosion.”

They evacuated last night. They have lived next door for 40 years.

“In 1990, we had some problems with the creek erosion, but managed to get through it,” Jack Brooks said. “That was nothing like this.”

Long said the home was not flooded. Rather, the creek bank was slowly eroded by the rising waters until the 15-foot buffer was finally gone.

“I thought I lost everything. But I’ve got some crazy people, who I dearly love, in there trying to salvage stuff,” said Long, who’d been living in the guest home for the past few months.

The Brooks’ main house is also in danger from the eroding creek bank. Long said a section of the home now hangs over the creek with water running under it. The family is removing as many items from the home while they still can.

Getting to Issaquah was a challenge for some morning commuters. State Route 900 near the Wilderness Creek Trailhead had about three to four inches of standing water on the roadway that caused motorists to drive slowly through the area. Morning commuters had an hour-and-a-half drive from Renton.

Two sections of Issaquah-Hobart Road are closed. The first was closed by the city of Issaquah as Public Works personnel clear clogged drains causing about a 100 yards of flooding along the southbound roadway.

The King County Sheriff’s Office has blocked Issaquah-Hobart Road from the 11000 block south. A culvert of the north fork of Issaquah Creek became blocked, diverting the entire flow across the road. In the direct path of the flow is Kevin Dunn’s home. He said he has about two feet of water accumulated in his crawl space and garage. The rest is flowing on through to the south fork of Issaquah Creek.

“The gate was blocking the water until that gave away and it just came storming through,” said the owner of The Edge Repair, Fabrication and Storage.

He added his business was out of the path of the flooding.

One resident tried to drive from Renton to Issaquah. What is usually a 30-minute drive, took her an hour and a half. Instead of heading to Issaquah-Hobart Road from Petrovitsky Road, she was re-rerouted through the May Valley area to state Route 900 before finally arriving in Issaquah.

Another resident who lives on the south end of Issaquah-Hobart Road had to drive completely around the south side of Squak Mountain to avoid the flooded roadways. Her usual 15-minute commute was stretched to more than an hour.

A third resident from Renton trying to get into Issaquah along state Route 900 sat in the backup of rererouted traffic, making her usual 10-minute drive last well over an hour.

The Red Cross opened the Preston Community Center as a shelter from the flooding. Three people from the Snoqualmie Valley area stayed in the center overnight, which was stocked with beds and food. The shelter has since been closed.

The highest level of flooding Issaquah Creek reached was Phase III. There are four phases of total volume. They are:

*  Phase I — 6.5 feet

*  Phase II — 7.5 feet

*  Phase III — 8.5 feet

*  Phase IV — 9 feet

According to Scott Wright, utility lead for sewer and water for the city’s Public Works Department, there were about 30 deliveries of sand and bags up to 7:30 p.m. last night. Between then and 7:30 a.m. today, another 50 deliveries were made. And since, there have just been four deliveries of sand.

Be prepared for water over roadways throughout the city. Those who need to travel in the southern part of Issaquah should use alternate routes.

The following roads are closed due to water over the roadway:

♦ Front Street South and Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast from Sycamore Drive Southeast to Southeast May Valley Road

♦ Newport Way Southwest from Wildwood Boulevard Southwest to Front Street South

♦ Seventh Avenue Northwest between Northwest Gilman Boulevard and Northwest Locust Street

♦ Northwest Gilman Boulevard between Northwest Maple Street and 12th Avenue Northwest

♦ Northwest Locust Street between Seventh Avenue Northwest and Fifth Avenue Northwest

The southbound lane of Issaquah-Hobart Road below Highway 18 just south of Tiger Mountain is closed. Get more information about road closures in the county here.

“I would definitely say this is one of the worst floods we’ve seen since ’96,” said Autumn Monahan, communications coordinator for the city.

The city’s public works department has been on a 24-hour emergency alert status since Monday evening, she said.

Last night, the city made 50 sandbag deliveries, constituting 9,000 bags of sand, she said.

Monahan recommended that residents check the city’s special online flood section for up-to-date information.

Residents can also get updates from the city’s AM radio station 1700 and its recorded phone line at 837-3028.

Schools in the Issaquah School District were open and running on time Thursday. However, due to road closures on Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast, Tiger Mountain Road Southeast, Cedar Grove Road and Southeast 132nd Street, there were no bus services for students living on or around those roadways in neighborhoods like Mirrormont.

As road conditions improved by mid-afternoon, students, except those living on Southeast 132nd Street and on Issaquah-Hobart Road between Sycamore and Southeast 132nd, had bus service home after school. The district’s after-school activity buses were also running on schedule for students, except for those areas.

Attendance officials were notified about the situations of students living in those areas and they will be excused from school. District officials asked families to put the safety of their family members first when deciding whether to transport students to school themselves.

Rochelle Ogershok, spokeswoman for the King County Road Services Division, said road problems due to flooding were worse than they’ve been in years.

“We have severe storms every year, but the last storm that was of this magnitude was in 2006,” she said. “This has maybe exceeded that.”

She recommended that residents stay abreast of new road alerts by checking the Regional Public Information Network.

She added that the Road Services Division had every available employee working on road closures and flood issues.

The Snoqualmie Pass along Interstate 90 is closed today, said Megan Soptich, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation’s Northwest Division.

The road is closed between North Bend and Ellensburg due to a high risk of avalanches and landslides, she said.

The state Department of Transportation reported that 1,200 of its own crews, plus National Guard members and state patrol troopers, have responded to the flooding, working to reopen roads where they can.

See area photos taken by the state Department of Transportation here.

Reporters Jim Feehan, David Hayes, Chantelle Lusebrink and J.B. Wogan, Editor Kathleen R. Merrill and photographer Greg Farrar contributed to this story.

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