Warm temperatures and rain are conspiring to turn gurgling streams into raging torrents around North Idaho.
The National Weather Service has issued a small stream flood advisory for North Idaho and northeastern Washington in anticipation of a rapid runoff.
Sandbags flank one end of Ponderosa Golf Course in Coeur d’Alene where snowmelt is forming a small lake.
Hayden Lake, meanwhile, inches toward a new plastic-lined spillway in its dike.
Post Fall Highway District workers are keeping a close eye on Hauser Lake Drive where it crosses swollen Hauser Creek - or, rather, where the creek crosses the road.
Kootenai County’s third problem spot is Fernan Lake, where lakeshore homeowners are collecting sand and bags to keep the lake from claiming their basements.
“Those are the spots we’re watching right now,” said Bill Schwartz, Kootenai County’s director of disaster services. “They’re the ones we know about.”
The Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers have room to expand before they start threatening property.
On Monday, the Coeur d’Alene River was measured at about 35 feet, which is eight feet below flood stage.
“The Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers will probably have 3- to 4-foot rises over the next two or three days, but that will not bring any of them to flood stage,” said Brian Avery, National Weather Service hydrologist.
Lake Coeur d’Alene still has lots of room for spring run-off, too. The level was almost three feet below the summer level, but was expected to rise about two feet this week.
Avery expects the freezing level to rise to an elevation of 5,000 feet or 5,500 feet by Thursday, but then temperatures are expected to drop.
Bill Scott, Shoshone County’s disaster services coordinator, said that could help diminish the record snowpack without the risk of major flooding.
“With the current forecast, it’s probably good for the area,” Scott said. “We’ll lose some of our low level snow, and we’ll be in better shape.”
Even if the meltdown comes fast and furious, the results might not be as disastrous as last year. Cataldo’s leaky dike has been fixed and the town has a more effective barrier in case the river starts backing up under the Interstate 90 overpass.
Pine Creek, which nearly washed out a bridge last year, was dredged last summer and now has more room for high water.
And last week, Kootenai County went ahead with creating a spillway in the Hayden Lake dike to allow high water to exit the lake. Schwartz said he expects water to start spilling over today.
But their best-laid plans could be merely stopgap measures if the weather turns too ugly.
“We’re in a waiting mode right now,” Scott said. “We’re hoping that it doesn’t get too hot, too wet, too fast.”