Issaquah Creek, street flooding emerge as latest concerns as city thaws

January 20, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 3:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 2012

Concerns about Issaquah Creek and street flooding bubbled to the surface Friday afternoon, as ice and snow melt after debilitating storms and forecasters issued a flood watch for Western Washington.

City crews, officials and residents also cast a wary eye at ice- and snow-laden trees, as meteorologists forecast strong winds to last through the weekend — creating another possibility for overtaxed trees to drop branches on roads and residences.

Officials urged residents to clear snow and debris, such as fallen leaves and downed tree branches, from storm drains near homes in order to reduce the street-flooding risk.

The latest alerts came as many Issaquah residents spent another day without power, as Puget Sound Energy crews raced to restore power to more than 200,000 customers across the region.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Seattle predicted rain to fall in the Issaquah area through the weekend. Expect sustained winds in the 20 mph to 30 mph range, and gusts up to 41 mph Friday night. Forecasters said strong winds should continue Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re going to see a lot of water here in the next few hours as the snow starts to melt,” Communications Coordinator Autumn Monahan, the city official responsible for disseminating information to the public during snowstorms and other emergencies, said Friday afternoon. “We’re watching both urban flooding issues and Issaquah Creek.”

(Issaquah dodged significant flooding last year, and the last flooding to occur in the city resulted after a Pineapple Express storm barreled into the region in early December 2010.)

The slushy snow and downed trees continue to pose obstacles to city road crews. Public Works Operations crews continue to operate around the clock.

Motorists should prepare for numerous road closures in Issaquah and the surrounding area.

State Route 900 at the southern city limits is closed due to a downed tree. Southeast 56th Street from 229th Avenue Southeast to East Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast is closed due to downed power lines. So is 221st Place Southeast from Southeast 62nd Street to Northwest Sammamish Road.

On Squak Mountain, Highwood Drive Southwest near the Greenwood Boulevard Southwest intersection is closed. Southwest Forest Drive is closed from Wildwood Boulevard Southwest to Wildwood Boulevard Southwest. In addition, the road is closed at 845 S.W. Ellerwood St. Wildwood Boulevard Southwest from Valley View Place Southwest to Ridgewood Circle Southwest is closed.

Outside Issaquah, state Route 18 from Interstate 90 near Preston to Auburn remains closed to due hundreds of downed trees on the roadway. State Route 900 at closed at Southeast May Valley Road due to downed trees.

Officials urged people to exercise caution outdoors in order prevent another tragedy similar to a Thursday incident. Police said a falling tree killed a 60-year-old man near Issaquah.

“Be very when you’re outside of possible falling trees or limbs,” Monahan said. “When we have rain that’s right on top of heavy snow, we’ve got weight issues, so make sure to be aware of you’re surroundings when you’re outside.”

On Friday, however, the focus remained on the power outage, as residents questioned PSE and city officials about repairs. Issaquah Police Department dispatchers received a handful of calls from residents asking about repairs to the power grid — a no-no. PSE urged customers to direct questions about repairs to the utility.

“Every call that we receive that’s not an emergency call, that takes away our dispatchers from taking a call that could be an emergency,” Monahan said. “We do ask people to only call if they an actual emergency.”

Officials also directed people without power to a shelter set up by the city and the American Red Cross at the Issaquah Community Center. Monahan said three people spent the night at the shelter Thursday, and the facility handled about 30 drop-in clients by Friday afternoon.

Mayor Ava Frisinger — bundled in a fleece bomber jacket and heavy duty boots — trekked to City Hall from home in downtown Issaquah. City Hall had power, but no heat. The temperature in the mayor’s office hovered in the mid-50s.

The mayor’s neighborhood lost power Thursday morning moments after she poured batter into a waffle iron for 7-year-old granddaughter Ava.

“So, one batch of waffles got baked and then the rest turned into cooked-on-the-stovetop pancakes,” she said.

Frisinger said residents adapted gracefully to the challenges posed by ongoing power outage and harsh conditions.

“I’m glad that people are as self-reliant as they are and they’re very helpful to other people and concerned about them,” she said.

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