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On Wild Weather, Or, A Note To California January 12, 2009

Filed under: Cascade Mountians — fakeconsultant @ 10:45 am
Tags: , , ,

In our last conversation there was some mention of snow in my part of the world (the western slope of Washington’s Cascade Mountains); but all that water has instead been falling as rain the past few days…washing away all the snow that had accumulated in the lowlands…and much of the several feet of snow that has fallen in the mountains over the past two weeks.

The result of all that water, all at once (many areas saw more than 10 inches of rain in 48 hours), has been a flood event unlike any I’ve seen in decades of living in this area.

The Girlfriend’s Mother lives in San Diego (where she has had her own series of exciting emergency events); and to keep her reassured I sent along a note describing how it went—and for quite a few of us, how it’s still going.

By the time I was done I realized I’d written a story—and that’s what I have for you today, Gentle Reader…a few words about Big Weather and how we deal with it.

Well, anyway, they come over to help us celebrate the Golden
Wedding and it was pretty crimpy weather and the furnace don’t seem
to heat up no more like it used to and Mother made the remark that
she hoped this winter wouldn’t be as cold as the last, referring to
the winter previous. So Edie said if she was us, and nothing to keep
us home, she certainly wouldn’t spend no more winters up here and why
didn’t we just shut off the water and close up the house and go down
to Tampa, Florida?

–From “The Golden Honeymoon”, Ring Lardner, Jr.

A few comments before we get to the letter, if I may:

–First, some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent…and some haven’t.

–Additionally, you should know that this is the follow on to other notes on the same topic. I will add context as needed.

–The original note did not contain links…which means you, Gentle Reader, are getting extra “value added” content for your reading dollar.

With all that said, let’s get to the note I sent to San Diego:

When I talked to you the other day Seattle was cut off from every other major city on the West Coast, but things are almost back to normal now.

It was impossible to even get from Seattle to Tacoma, but I-5 is now open all the way south to Portland and north to Vancouver, BC.

Some of the area near where [The Girlfriend] might have to transfer if [her place of employment] were to ever close (the town of Pacific) is still flooded because they are releasing water on the town to relieve strain on a dam upriver. They will be under water for at least a few more days because it will rain again tomorrow, and that means they will have to keep releasing water from the dam onto the town.

Snoqualmie Pass (I-90) has finally opened…which means trucks can now go from Seattle to the Midwest and East Coast…but the State Department of Transportation traffic advisory radio says that driving, stopping, and parking are prohibited on the shoulders of I-90 from North Bend to Easton (about 70 miles) because the flooding might have undermined the roadway–which means if you stop your car on the side of the road it might collapse under you. The unspoken message? Don’t get a flat tire.

We have never heard that kind of message from the DOT radio before.

(It is reported that the DOT had to clear 1 million cubic feet of snow in one day to keep Snoqualmie Pass open. Of course, avalanche control makes the opening an intermittent thing, and new snow piling up over old snow makes the problem worse.)

It is not possible to do the loop that we took with Diana from Seattle to Roslyn (where “Northern Exposure” was filmed…we went there with [The Girlfriend’s Sister]) and then on to Leavenworth (the Bavarian town up north in the mountains) because the road going north is both flooded and subject to landslides…or it’s already covered by landslides.

That’s about 100 miles of road closed, and there is no known date for reopening the road. (As of this writing only 40 miles of the road remains closed…still with no known date for reopening.)

Most towns are now no longer cut off around here…and my friend Sadie put a note up on her MySpace page to tell people that she had 6 feet of water around her house. She lives in Snoqualmie, which was one of the towns completely cut off from everywhere else during the flood. Most houses in Snoqualmie are elevated because it floods so often, and she basically lives on the second floor, which many other people there also do. She has horses, and she said they were also safe. (Sadly, we just learned that her dog, Mia, has now gone missing…so if you happen to see a pit bull/English bulldog mix wandering around looking lost…)

She did not leave even though Snoqualmie residents were told to evacuate.
Because she had no way to evacuate the horses, she stayed.

I called her to check up on her during the flooding. She said she was sick of being housebound by herself and wanted to go out. The Girlfriend was sitting next to me in the car while we were talking, and suggested Sadie could use a rowboat. What The Girlfriend did not know is that Sadie does have a rowboat, and the problem was that her property is surrounded by blackberries that are more than 6 feel tall…and a locked gate.

She was telling me that in order to get out, in the boat, she would either have to somehow get it over the blackberries (they have sharp thorns, so you do not want to mess with them) or row up to the gate, try to find the lock that’s on a chain in the water somewhere, get it unlocked, get the gate open (while floating in a rowboat), and row somewhere.

My suggestion? Float some sheets of plywood over to the berries and make a sort of bridge out of them, then drag the boat across.

She was thinking about it when we ended the call, and I still don’t know what she did. The advantage of the plywood was that it wouldn’t weigh anything to get it over to the berries, so she could float several sheets over in one trip.

I forget to mention…when we were talking to her there was only 5 feet of water out front instead of 6, so it was going down.
She had also just got her power back after about 24 hours of being dark.

In Carnation, today, (about 15 miles down the valley from us) and also in Duvall (about 20 miles downstream), they were still using helicopters to make 911 calls because the fire department couldn’t get in; but the National Guard was expected to be able to get in with their vehicles tonight. Most people there won’t have power until the flooding dies down…probably another day or two.

There are towns like Arlington up north that are still getting lots of water from upriver (every river in western Washington flooded, many to all-time records), so it will be a few more days for them.

We are seeing big potholes, of course, because the ground under the roads is either saturated and muddy…or washed away.

The intersection right next door is still flooding, but it is no longer 2 feet deep on the road, just a few inches.

Our front door is at least 10 feet above the spot that’s flooding, so it would have to get at least 12 feet deep there before we would even begin to be concerned…and it only got about 3 feet deep at the height of the “all-time record” flooding, which means we are quite safe–unless Noah moves in and starts a boat building project.

Have a look at the local paper’s stories…

…and the CBS News version, from a week ago, reporting on the snowfall that caused much of the flooding when it melted the past couple of days.

So there you go: we did fine, some of my friends are no longer cut off (but they were)…and to make things exciting, we have at least one, maybe two more good soakings on the way before we get a few days of actual dry weather. (I’m guessing, but we probably got somewhere between 10 and 15 inches of rain in two days…along with the snowmelt, which probably added another 3 to 6 inches of water to the rainfall for everyone to deal with.)

I’ll let you know if we get any more good stories…but let me tell you, this was some big-time flood.

Hopefully you saw the pictures I pointed you to in my first note. There are about 25 there now, if you did not see them all.

So that’s the note I sent…but I have an update or two for today’s readers:

–Lots of pavement was torn away from important roads all over this half of the state by the flooding, and a substantial number of them will be closed for either days or weeks until they can be rebuilt.

–You know the “lost dog” and “lost cat” signs that occasionally appear in your neighborhood? The Girlfriend reports that she saw a “lost koi” sign today on the way home…which was presumably the result of a pond being overrun by flooding.

Quite a month we’ve had up here—and winter is really just getting started.

Of course, there is a bright side: it’s kept me from having to write about the minutiae of the transition…and it’s allowed me to follow the Gaza story more closely—a subject to which we’ll return next time we get together.