Snow blankets region, but officials report few headaches — so far

January 17, 2012

Snow blanketed Issaquah and the Puget Sound region Jan. 15 and 16, as officials and residents prepared for more challenging conditions in the days ahead.

The potential for more snow — plus flooding as the snow melted — reminded emergency planners to gird for harsh La Niña conditions, albeit later in the season than expected.

“It’s going to be pretty messy in the next couple of days,” said Johnny Burg, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle. “People should just pay attention to the forecast.”

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Issaquah residents urged to prepare amid King County flood watch

November 21, 2011

NEW — 5 p.m. Nov. 21, 2011

King County is under a flood watch as a precipitation-laden system barrels into Western Washington, and Issaquah residents should prepare for localized flooding as rain and wind pelt the area.

The flood watch is in effect until through late Wednesday night. Expect 2 to 4 inches of rainfall Monday night and Tuesday as the snow level rises to about 6,000 feet, and then another 1 to 3 inches Tuesday night and Wednesday as the snow level gradually dips to about 3,000 feet.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Seattle said any flooding related to the system is expected to be minor.

In addition, a wind advisory is in effect through noon Tuesday.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said leaves dislodged from trees by rain and wind could also clog storm drains and lead to flooding along city streets.

Issaquah Creek flooding is not expected to pose a major problem in the days ahead.

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National Weather Service changes flood warnings for Issaquah

September 24, 2011

NEW — 11 a.m. Sept. 24, 2011

Less than a year after conflicting flood information confused Issaquah residents during a December deluge, the National Weather Service plans to adjust flood warning levels for Issaquah Creek.

The agency plans to base flood warnings on the creek’s flow, rather than height. The agency plans to make the adjustments Oct. 1.

The switch is meant to avoid confusion between National Weather Service data and the city’s flood warning system.

The city bases warnings on real-time data from a gauge upstream from Issaquah in Hobart. The system can usually provide a few hours of lead time before flooding impacts Issaquah.

The data collected by the National Weather Service comes from a downstream gauge near the creek mouth in Lake Sammamish State Park.

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City, King County changed disaster preparedeness since 9/11 attacks

September 13, 2011

The decade since 9/11 has reshaped how Issaquah and King County leaders prepare for disasters and manage the response to emergencies.

The attacks also meant increased attention — and dollars — for emergency management efforts, although local officials said the initial focus on counterterrorism sidelined plans about other dangers, such as floods and earthquakes.

“All of the sudden there was a big focus on emergency management in general. That was good news from an emergency management perspective,” said Bret Heath, city public works operations and emergency management director. “The bad news is that it shifted from all hazards to almost strictly terrorism immediately following 9/11.”

Issaquah planners focused on more common emergencies — floods, snowstorms, windstorms and the like — in the years before the attacks.

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Issaquah, Tibbetts water quality is good, but concerns remain

August 23, 2011

Michael Friel, 10, brushes dirt off a curb, as his dad Mike (left), Molly Caskey and her son Ian, 10, glue the back of a Puget Sound Starts Here tile to glue next to a storm drain in the Issaquah Highlands. By Greg Farrar

The creeks crisscrossing Issaquah remain in good condition, despite increased construction nearby, a population boom in the surrounding watershed and, alongside both developments, more potential for pollution.

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City to elevate flood-prone homes

August 2, 2011

The city Planning Department is considering a permit to allow crews to elevate flood-prone homes along Issaquah Creek.

Plans call for elevating four homes in the Sycamore neighborhood by about 4 feet above the 100-year floodplain. The project includes decks, stairs, landings, walks, foundations, crawlspaces and some minor modifications to the homes to account for the elevation.

The homes along Sycamore Drive Southeast and Southeast Sycamore Place qualified for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant program administered by the city.

The city also intends to elevate a home along Northwest Cherry Place.

In January 2009, floodwaters ruined houses in hard-hit Sycamore. Since the major flood, crews breached a Great Depression-era levee across the creek from the neighborhood to allow more room for the creek to meander during floods.

Memorial Day weekend serves a water safety reminder

May 28, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. May 28, 2011

Rivers make for inherently dangerous places to play — especially in the springtime as water flows high, swift and cold.

King County public safety officials and emergency responders stand on extra alert for spring and summer, because unusually heavy amounts of mountain snow is melting into local rivers. In addition, a tumultuous winter flood season changed river channels and reoriented logs.

The conditions create a recipe for river recreation tragedy.

“King County rivers are running fast and cold and are always extremely dangerous this time of year,” King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said in a statement. “But 2011 could bring even higher risks. We want to get the word out ahead of the Memorial Day weekend and before the next hot weather forecast that people should stay out of the rivers at this time.”

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State removes hurdle for cities in need of disaster assistance

May 24, 2011

Floodwaters inundated Snoqualmie in January 2009 and, even as nearby Issaquah dried out from a major flood, officials sent equipment to the other flood-plagued city.

Issaquah and other local governments previously needed to negotiate a patchwork of interlocal agreements among local governments, law enforcement agencies and emergency service providers in order to receive aid from other jurisdictions during a disaster.

Under legislation signed last month, asking for help from other agencies in Washington is simpler for Issaquah and other local governments.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said the measure allows local governments to request aid from other jurisdictions in Washington, even if the parties do not have interlocal agreements in place.

“Prior to this, it was easier to bring resources in from out of state than it was from other counties,” he said.

The measure could serve a crucial need during a regional disaster, such as a major earthquake.

“Typically, during those types of emergencies, all of the jurisdictions in King County are in the same boat, if you will,” Heath said. “We’re not in a position where we can share resources with each other, because we’re all maxed out. So, we need to bring resources in from outside.”

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State shores up King County Flood Control District funding

May 10, 2011

King County leaders praised state legislators and Gov. Chris Gregoire last week for supporting a measure to shore up funding for the King County Flood Control District, the agency responsible for flood-protection policies, programs and projects.

Gregoire signed a measure May 5 to protect funding for the district. The bill exempts the district from the statewide property rate tax cap by protecting up to 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The exemption is in effect from next year until 2017.

Until the governor signed the measure, the district faced a steep drop-off in funding due to the decline in housing values and a state cap on property tax rates.

“We worked together as a region to preserve this important tool that will protect people and businesses throughout King County from floods,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “I am pleased to see the overwhelming support in the state Legislature for this bill, and I thank Gov. Gregoire for signing it today.”

The district collects 11 cents per $1,000 in assessed value and uses the dollars to fund flood-control efforts.

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State shores up funding for King County Flood Control District

May 6, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. May 6, 2011

King County leaders praised state legislators and Gov. Chris Gregoire for supporting a measure to shore up funding for the King County Flood Control District, the agency responsible for flood-protection policies, programs and projects.

Gregoire signed a measure Thursday to protect funding for the district. The bill exempts the district from the statewide property rate tax cap by protecting up to 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The exemption is in effect from next year until 2017.

Until the governor signed the measure, the district faced a steep drop-off in funding due to the decline in housing values and a state cap on property tax rates.

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