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St. Joe Creeps Uncomfortably Close Residents Of Low Ground Tie Down Belongings As River Rises

Jim Reilly rolled the car, the pickup, a trailer and an old wheelbarrow onto the oversized foundation of his Whitetail Flats home Wednesday.

Couldn’t have them floating away, he said.

Then heavy rains buried his driveway - the only exit - turning Reilly’s home into a sort of shrinking island car lot amid the ever-expanding St. Joe River.

No problem, he said. Reilly and wife Virginia will spend today dealing cribbage hands and watching water rise.

Warm winds melted mountain snow and merged with heavy rains Wednesday, raising the St. Joe at a rate of 2 inches an hour. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings and water was expected to crest 11 feet above normal levels at midnight Thursday.

In a region that threatens to flood each spring, many are taking this out-of-season water-burst in stride.

“Everybody’s got their pontoons out and their swimsuits on,” joked Jim Oliver at the Calder General Store east of St. Joe City.

The rain was washing out driveways. Water had already seeped through saturated soils and flooded a few trailer homes.

“Another few feet and a lot of us’ll be donning our waders,” Oliver said. “But I’m not worrying about. We live with it. Can’t stop it.”

That wasn’t good enough for Dale and Rod Holte.

The father and son from Hayden Lake rowed a boat across fields waist-deep in water to secure the dock on their St. Joe summer cabin. They also carried an old stove to the cabin’s second floor.

“Anything we didn’t want to lose we moved up above,” Holte said. Garbage cans and plastic lawn chairs stayed on the ground floor.

By mid-afternoon Wednesday, water was dripping into the basement of the Big Eddy Resort, where owners spent much of the morning roping down equipment in an outdoor shed.

“We’re tying down everything that ain’t nailed down,” said Chris Przybilski, resort owner.

Two mobile homes in the flatlands behind the resort were towed to higher ground, he said. Several trailer owners had already packed suitcases in case the river actually floods.

For most, that shouldn’t be necessary, said Benewah County emergency coordinator George Currier.

“We’ll crest at 2,135 feet” he said. “In 1982 we hit 2,137 feet and sand-bagged only one home.”

Water levels rarely top 2,124 feet at this time of year, he said.

“We’re at a point of high watchfulness,” he said.

In Cataldo, a swollen Coeur d’Alene River was not expected to reach flood levels.

“People aren’t getting real antsy yet, but it’s raining harder and harder,” said Joe Peak, owner of the Snake Pit Resort in Enaville.

The rains are expected to continue into the weekend, but diminishing snow levels and cooler temperatures mean flood warnings should subside by Friday morning, Currier said.

Regardless, the Reillys are ready.

In 1990, their first year here, Thanksgiving rains caught them off guard, washing away a picnic table and toppling a travel trailer.

This year, everything is tied down, Reilly said.

“We’ll just sweat it out,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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