January 3, 1997 in Nation/World

Major Threat Of Flooding Appears Over State Of Emergency Continues In Spokane County

Adam Lynn S Dan Hansen, Bert Caldwell Staff writer
 

Eastern Washington residents began the soggy task of cleaning up from New Year’s Day floods as most streams receded Thursday.

The state of emergency continued in Spokane County, but officials said the worst probably is over. There were no reported injuries.

Surging Latah Creek, which had threatened to overrun dozens of homes Wednesday when it swelled with rainwater and melted snow, calmed considerably.

“It’s hoped the major threat is over,” Sheriff John Goldman said. Today’s forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain or snow showers with highs in the mid-30s.

From the Whitman County town of Rosalia to Vinegar Flats in Spokane, people assessed damage and started drying out.

Teri Stockner traded her back yard for a waterfront view.

By Thursday morning, about 4 feet of the trailer was hanging over Latah Creek, and Stockner was packing her possessions. She expected movers to tow her home of 15 years to higher ground by the end of the day.

“When it’s everything you own (that’s threatened), looking at that crick is scary,” she said.

Jack Hill, Stockner’s neighbor, figures he has lost about 75 feet of yard - along with trees that produced apples, cherries and shade - in the last two years.

Hill, whose house is still about 100 feet from the water, said there’s not much sense worrying about something that can’t be fixed.

“You could have brought the 1st Infantry out here (Wednesday) with all the sandbags in the world, and they couldn’t have done nothing,” he said.

“There isn’t anything that can be done unless somebody wants to spend about a million dollars putting up a concrete wall.”

In the southern Spokane County town of Rockford, residents washed away layers of mud and carried waterlogged belongings out of businesses and homes.

Dripping furniture and soaked financial records lay in stacks on the sidewalk along Emma Street. “We’ve got debris everywhere,” said Carrie Roecks, town clerk.

Rock Creek sent 4 feet of water into the central business district there Wednesday morning.

The post office, which was hit with 2 feet of water, was closed. Mail delivery in the town and surrounding farmlands was canceled. In all, 11 buildings took water, Roecks said.

Rosalia, about 30 miles south of Spokane, was hit even harder when Pine Creek rushed over its banks and inundated low-lying parts of town.

Police Chief Dennis Peters said Thursday that 21 buildings, including 13 houses, were flooded and 14 city streets damaged. In addition, the city’s park and swimming pool sustained water damage, Peters said.

Most people living along the creek stayed out of their homes again Thursday night as the usually quiet stream churned in a writhing brown mass nearby. It may be several more days before some people return, he added.

“Part of the dike washed out, and people are a little leery to go back in,” Peters said.

In Tekoa, crews spent Thursday sopping water and mud out of the Wilbur-Ellis fertilizer company at the edge of town.

No chemicals leaked into Latah Creek, but 2 feet of water knocked out telephone service and generally made a mess at the business, officials said. “They really got it,” said Peggy Hagan, Tekoa town clerk.

Cleanup efforts in Whitman County were hampered by a mudslide that knocked out long-distance telephone service to the county seat of Colfax.

The slide on Kamiak Butte ripped up the US West fiber-optic cables that serve Colfax, said Annette Miller of US West Communications in Spokane.

Crews using heavy equipment hope to restore service to most of the 2,700 customers without long distance by today, Miller said.

Permanent repairs will have to wait until spring when the ground stabilizes.

Roads throughout the area remained blocked by high water, including state Highway 27 between Tekoa and Oakesdale.

At least five roads in Spokane County were impassible because of washouts, said Dennis Scott, public works director.

Authorities reported no serious flooding in Pend Oreille or Stevens counties and none in Lincoln and Ferry counties.

JoAnn Boggs, Pend Oreille County Emergency Services Director, said a few residents requested sandbags because of minor flooding from creeks. Also, a 20-person crew of state prisoners worked New Year’s Day to remove heavy, wet snow from the roof of Newport High School.

In Stevens County, the Sheriff’s Department said water running over gravel roads was causing some erosion but no serious problem.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (1 Color)

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHOM TO CALL Emergency telephone numbers for people with questions about the latest flooding: The Spokane County Department of Emergency Services is a general clearinghouse of information regarding current conditions and available services. Call 456-4734. For questions about water wells or septic tanks contaminated with flood water, call the Spokane County Health District at 324-1560. People who need to work in flooding streams or rivers to protect life or property can obtain emergency permits from the state. Call the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Spokane at 456-4082 or Olympia at (360) 902-2534.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn Staff writer Staff writers Dan Hansen, Bert Caldwell and John Craig contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHOM TO CALL Emergency telephone numbers for people with questions about the latest flooding: The Spokane County Department of Emergency Services is a general clearinghouse of information regarding current conditions and available services. Call 456-4734. For questions about water wells or septic tanks contaminated with flood water, call the Spokane County Health District at 324-1560. People who need to work in flooding streams or rivers to protect life or property can obtain emergency permits from the state. Call the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Spokane at 456-4082 or Olympia at (360) 902-2534.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn Staff writer Staff writers Dan Hansen, Bert Caldwell and John Craig contributed to this report.

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