President declares King County a disaster area for January storms

March 5, 2012

NEW — 3:40 p.m. March 5, 2012

Federal aid is available to Issaquah and other cities impacted during the January storms, because President Barack Obama declared King County a disaster area Monday.

The cost of storm response and cleanup reached $530,000 for city government. City officials said about $383,000 in costs related to the storms could be eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gov. Chris Gregoire asked Obama late last month to declare a federal disaster area in King County and 10 other Washington counties for damages and response costs from January storms.

Local governments could defray 75 percent of eligible disaster-related costs — such as debris removal — by using FEMA public assistance grants.

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Hazardous conditions impacted response to January storms

March 5, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. March 5, 2012

The battle against the elements created dangerous conditions for city crews during a snowstorm and a rare ice storm in January, officials said in a recent update on response to the storms.

City crews scrambled to keep pace as the storms battered Issaquah and the region. Sometimes, limbs crashed onto city streets mere moments after a snowplow scraped snow and ice from the surface.

“You’d clear a road, you’d come back down and you’d have to clear your way back out the same road,” Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said in a Feb. 28 briefing to the City Council. “Or you’d clear a road and you’d get a call from somebody else in the snowplow that said, ‘I thought you cleared this road.’ The answer is, well, we did. We were just there, but those trees were coming down so fast and frequent that it was impossible for awhile to stay on top of that.”

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State Route 18 on Tiger Mountain to close for guardrail repair

March 1, 2012

NEW — 11 a.m. March 1, 2012

Motorists should prepare for closures on state Route 18 across Tiger Mountain on Saturday, as crews continue the repair effort from the January storms.

Crews plan to close westbound state Route 18 between Interstate 90 and the Tiger Mountain summit at 6 a.m. to rip out and replace damaged guardrail. The roadway should reopen at 2:30 p.m.

Eastbound state Route 18 is scheduled to remain open for motorists headed east from the Issaquah area to Interstate 90 or the trailhead and parking area at the Tiger Mountain State Forest summit.

The state Department of Transportation recommended for westbound motorists to use interstates 5 and 405, plus other local routes, to reached Auburn, Maple Valley and Renton.

The guardrail needs to be replaced and support posts need to be installed after a tractor-trailer damaged the guardrail during the January snowstorm.

Crews must completely close the westbound highway, because workers cannot safely alternate traffic at the location due to the narrow roadway and the difficulty of tractor-trailers stopping on the steep grade.

Governor asks president to declare King County as disaster area

February 28, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire asked President Barack Obama on Feb. 24 to declare a federal disaster area in King County and 10 other Washington counties for damages and response costs from January storms.

If the declaration is approved, Issaquah and other governments could defray 75 percent of eligible disaster-related costs — such as debris removal — by using Federal Emergency Management Agency public assistance grants.

The cost of storm response and cleanup reached $530,000 for Issaquah municipal government. Officials used the dollars to put snowplows on Issaquah streets in 24-hour stretches, clear fallen trees and haul off debris.

If a disaster declaration occurs, city officials said about $383,000 in costs related to the storms could be eligible for reimbursement through FEMA.

Preliminary state and federal damage assessments estimated $32.3 million in potential eligible damage across the state caused by snow, freezing rain, power outages, rain, fallen trees and limbs, avalanches, falling ice, landslides and storm debris.

Gregoire proclaimed a winter storm emergency in the state Jan. 18.

Gov. Chris Gregoire asks president to declare King County as disaster area

February 24, 2012

NEW — 3:15 p.m. Feb. 24, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire asked President Barack Obama on Friday to declare a federal disaster area in King County and 10 other Washington counties for damages and response costs from January storms.

If the declaration is approved, Issaquah and other governments could defray 75 percent of eligible disaster-related costs — such as debris removal — by using Federal Emergency Management Agency public assistance grants.

The cost of storm response and cleanup reached $530,000 for Issaquah municipal government. Officials used the dollars to put snowplows on Issaquah streets in 24-hour stretches, clear fallen trees and haul off debris.

If a disaster declaration occurs, city officials said about $383,000 in costs related to the storms could be eligible for reimbursement through FEMA.

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Issaquah’s bill for response to January storms tops $500,000

February 21, 2012

The city’s initial tally for response and cleanup from the January snowstorm and subsequent ice storm reached $530,000 — although the number could shrink if federal officials release dollars for disaster efforts.

Officials used the dollars to put snowplows on Issaquah streets in 24-hour stretches, clear fallen trees and haul off debris.

The city could receive federal dollars as a reimbursement if President Barack Obama declares the January storms as a federal disaster. Such a decision means local governments could apply for reimbursements for emergency response and cleanup activities.

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Come wintertime, wildlife descends from snowy peaks to milder climate

February 21, 2012

State wildlife biologist Brian Kertson spent five years studying the local cougar population, including a 130-pound, 2-year-old male tranquilized, captured and tagged in the Cedar River watershed in 2008. Contributed

As the snow moves down the mountains reaching lower elevations, so do most mountain wildlife inhabitants, from small animals to deer and elk.

And just in case you were wondering, bears don’t hibernate.

Those are two basic bits of information passed on by local experts asked to describe what happens to Issaquah wildlife during the winter months. It’s not the temperature, but snow that motivates most animals’ cold weather behavior, said Stephen West, associate director of the School of Environmental and Forestry Sciences at the University of Washington.

For the most part, cougars, deer and other local wildlife can tolerate any cold the Northwest brings their way, West said. It’s mountain snow they can’t deal with — it makes it more difficult for them to get around and much more difficult for them to find food. So as snow appears, many animals head for lower elevations. There are exceptions, including bears.

Bears don’t migrate, but rather stay in their normal territory, said Kenneth Raedeke, an affiliate professor in the UW’s Wildlife Science Program and the president of an environmental consulting firm.

And despite what you may have heard all your life, bears don’t hibernate, Raedeke and West said. Full hibernation means an animal is unconscious and its body temperature drops to match the surrounding temperature, West said. For an animal the size of a bear, waking up from such a state would require more biological energy and heat than they have available to them.

While they don’t fully hibernate, bears do go into a sort of relaxed state for perhaps three or four of the coldest months of the year, Raedeke said, adding a bear’s heart rate can drop as low as eight beats per minute. Even so, bears can and do remain somewhat active, coming out of their hiding spots periodically. And if you happen to stumble into an occupied bear den during the winter, the resident likely will take notice.

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National Weather Service issues flood watch for King County

February 21, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 21, 2012

National Weather Service meteorologists issued a flood watch for King County late Monday, as rain continues to pelt the region.

The flood watch is in effect for King County and other Western Washington counties until Thursday afternoon.

Meteorologists said heavy rain is forecast in the Cascades through Wednesday morning. The snow level is expected to rise to 6,000 to 7,000 feet above the Central Cascades during the same period.

Though the highest flooding risk is for rivers flowing from the mountains, increased precipitation in the area could cause Issaquah Creek to rise.

City officials base Issaquah Creek flood warnings on real-time data from a gauge upstream from Issaquah in Hobart. The system usually provides hours of lead time before flooding impacts Issaquah.

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City hosts another debris drop-off event at Tibbetts Valley Park

February 8, 2012

NEW — 9:30 a.m. Feb. 8, 2012

Issaquah residents and business owners can drop off tree branches and other woody debris from recent storms at Tibbetts Valley Park on Saturday and Sunday, officials announced Wednesday.

The drop-off site is scheduled to open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park, 965 12th Ave. N.W. Only storm-related woody debris is accepted. Though representatives plan to monitor drop-offs, customers must unload material themselves.

The city held the initial debris drop-off event Jan. 28-29, and collected about 500 cubic yards of debris from 610 people. The most recent event, held Feb. 4-5, attracted more than 500 people to the park.

Cleanup continues in Issaquah after a crippling snowstorm and subsequent ice storm in mid-January.

Winters seem so short nowadays

February 7, 2012

One good thing about getting older is that winters go by very quickly. Of course spring, summer and fall do as well, but that doesn’t negate the fact that winters are now truly bearable — even enjoyable.

For gardeners, this realization is a real boon. We don’t have to stare out the window at the dripping rain and soggy soil for very long each year. We are always just a blink away from getting out there and rooting around in all that good dirt.

For many plants, our winters are more like a rather uneventful camping trip in the mountains than a hellish experience. In fact, some of them seem to like the discomfort and the inconvenience that winter has to offer. We know the bulbs like it — the narcissus, crocus, hyacinths and tulips. They don’t seem to be bothered by anything, snoozing from summer through most of winter, and then peeking out of the ground as the weather improves. They inch up during good weather, and stay put when it’s cold. Mine are up already with the warm temperatures we’ve had.

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