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Buckets of rain swell rivers, bring floods
By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald
Last week's unrelenting rain left reminders throughout the region that will not soon be forgotten.
Uphill from Enumclaw, Mount Rainier National Park took a savage beating from rains that left rivers and streams swollen. Campgrounds were flooded, popular trails were swamped and bridges were ripped apart and washed away.
The White River grew to a volume that could barely be controlled. Eventually, water had to be released at Mud Mountain Dam, enough to cause flooding downstream in the town of Pacific. Water was also released behind Howard Hansen Dam on the Green River.
Parts of South Prairie were under water for a time and Orting, situated between two rivers, took perhaps the biggest hit.
Mount Rainier National Park
The park sustained damage on all fronts following 18 inches of rain that fell Nov. 6 and 7. “The damage we've experienced this week is sobering,” Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said.
A press released issued by park staff noted the road in the Carbon River area had been washed out in a half-dozen places and the Ipsut Creek Campground had been destroyed.
“Utility workers, road crews and other staff have been working long days to repair damage so we can reopen as soon as possible,” Uberuaga said.
Park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said a helicopter tour of the park revealed heavy damage to the popular Wonderland Trail, a loop of nearly 100 miles. Damage was so severe, Taylor said, that a trail expert immediately surmised the trail may not open for hikers during the coming year.
Mud Mountain Dam
Damage downstream from Enumclaw could have been much worse if not for the nearby dam and the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the earthen dam.
It was built approximately 65 years ago to control annual flooding that plagued low-lying area in the Puyallup Valley and certainly did its job this time around. The dam can put a stranglehold on the White River, the major tributary feeding the Puyallup River, which eventually winds its way to the Tacoma Tideflats area.
During last week's deluge, the dam held water for two days, earning credit for preventing flooding on the lower White River and, further down the line, along the Puyallup. Eventually, fearing even more rain, the Corps had to release some of the backed-up water, causing the minor flooding that was evident primarily at a Pacific park.
High water was evident everywhere the middle of last week. Ditches overflowed south of the King County Fairgrounds, putting water onto roadways and into yards. Rural pastures held standing water everywhere.
“I've never seen it that high before,” said longtime Fire Chief Joe Kolisch.
He said things were particularly dicey around Newaukum and Boise creeks, which overflowed their banks. Several homes had water creeping over the threshold.
In the city, Kolisch said, storm drains were taxed, but water was kept out of businesses.
Despite the buckets of rain that fell last week on the Plateau, Public Works Director Dan Staley said, “We were prepared for and were expecting the worst, so when it never actually materialized we were pleasantly surprised.”
Staley mentioned the Mundy Loss Road panhandle (standing water) and the Spiketon ditch (banks overflowing) as areas that had experienced the majority of the flooding.
“We had to do a little sand bagging and pumping around a few people's houses and garages. Also, we had some water running down the streets on the southwest end of town, but that was about the worst of it,” he said.
Staley maintained that even the sewer plant had weathered the storm.
John Leggett contributed to this story.