Warm temperatures, rain and powerful winds are expected to drive the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers to near flood stage by mid-week, weather officials said Monday.
The rush of runoff comes only days after flooding that washed out low-lying roads, fouled water supplies and swamped garages in river mud. The region’s rivers and lakes were just starting to recede.
“We’re definitely concerned,” said Kootenai County disaster services coordinator Bill Schwartz. “The rivers and streams are still pretty full.”
Warm winds are expected to melt much of the 2 feet of snow atop North Idaho’s mountains over the next few days. Temperatures in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls are expected to range between 35 and 45 degrees through Thursday. The freezing level Monday night was 5,800 feet.
“That’s quite high for this time of year,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Frisbie in Spokane.
Tonight, a strong Pacific storm system is expected to hit the region, bringing rain and warm winds of 35 to 45 miles per hour, with gusts up to 55 mph. Power companies are being warned to have repair crews on standby in case of widespread power outages.
On Washington’s coast, forecasters predict winds of up to 90 mph.
In North Idaho, the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe river areas will see 1 to 3 inches of rain by Thursday, the weather service predicted.
On Monday, the Coeur d’Alene River at Cataldo had risen to 37 feet, and was expected to reach 42 feet - 1 foot shy of flood stage - by Wednesday afternoon. At Enaville, the river is at 61 feet, expected to rise to 67 by Wednesday. Flood stage there is 72 feet.
At St. Maries, the St. Joe River was at 30-1/2 feet, expected to reach the 32-1/2-foot flood stage by late Wednesday or early Thursday.
“We’re holding our breath ‘til Wednesday,” said Shoshone County disaster services director Chuck Herrod.
The Weather Service also predicts higher water levels on Lake Coeur d’Alene this week. With the high winds, erosion will be greater than usual along the lakeshore, forecasters said.
“People with lakeside property better check it. If there’s things they can move (away from the water), they should do it,” said Schwartz.
People in flood-prone areas, he said, should prepare emergency kits with blankets, flashlights, medication and three days worth of food and water.