A Roaring River Runs Through It Mountain Rains Swell Spokane River To Springlike Levels

TUESDAY, DEC. 5, 1995

Recent heavy mountain rains raised the Spokane River on Monday to levels far higher than an average spring runoff.

The river was running at 28,950 cubic feet per second on Monday, sending a huge cascade over the falls in downtown Spokane.

A month ago, the river was running at 3,800 cubic feet per second.

Lake Coeur d’Alene peaked at 4.5 feet above summer levels over the weekend, but no serious flooding was expected along the shore or the river.

“We’ve got Post Falls (Dam) wide open, and we are (draining) the lake as quickly as possible,” said Jay Hopkins, a Washington Water Power spokesman.

Dam managers elsewhere in the Inland Northwest were holding as much runoff as possible in reservoirs to prevent flooding in the Portland harbor area and the lower Columbia River.

At the same time, power companies were repairing lines damaged by winds from the second strong windstorm in five days. A peak gust of 48 mph was recorded in Spokane at 3:23 a.m. Monday.

WWP officials said some 4,000 of their customers were without power early Monday in scattered outages following the early morning windstorm. Crews worked for 15 hours to restore service.

Colder weather this week is expected to end the threat of any serious flooding by bringing a freeze to the mountains.

Those colder temperatures are not expected to be as severe as forecasters believed on Sunday.

The National Weather Service on Monday canceled its warning for an Arctic outbreak. The cold-weather system moving south from Alaska is expected to graze the Inland Northwest and pass largely to the east.

Lows should be in the teens through the week. Highs are expected to reach the upper 20s to mid-30s, said John Livingston, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane.

Livingston said there is a chance of snow late Thursday and Friday morning.

Lake levels on major reservoirs rose over the weekend as river managers tried to capture and slow the water to avoid damage downstream.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was holding back water at Albeni Falls Dam, which controls Lake Pend Oreille; Dworshak Dam on the Clearwater River; and Libby Dam on the Kootenai River. Water was being held back in Arrow Lake in Canada on the Columbia River.

At Grand Coulee Dam, the reservoir went from 5 feet below full pool to a half-foot from full.

The high reservoir level means Grand Coulee can generate plenty of electricity, said power manager Steve Clark.

Lake Coeur d’Alene rose 3 feet over the weekend, and some lakefront owners complained about docks floating off shortened pilings.

Steve Esh, system operations engineer for WWP, said the lake level has gone higher during midwinter floods in 1974 and 1982 when snowpacks melted under warm rains. He said the lake was 8.5 feet above normal in 1974.

High flows also come during quick spring runoffs, but those usually peak at 20,000 to 25,000 cubic feet per second, Esh said.

More than 3 inches of rain fell in Wallace over a three-day period last week. A high freezing level also melted snow in the mountains, contributing to Idaho flooding.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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