The end appears in sight for flood-weary Pend Oreille River residents.
The river rose only slightly more than an inch Friday at Cusick, Wash., where a patchedup dike continues to keep the town dry. The river’s level was expected to crest late Friday or early today.
Officials caution, though, that the river will remain high through June and may start to rise again in a week or two as more snow melts in Montana.
About 25 National Guard troops were expected to arrive Friday night to relieve volunteers who have been guarding evacuated homes.
One of the areas they are expected to guard, however, is populated Sunvale Acres, near Tiger, about 45 miles north of Newport, Wash. Most year-round residents of the subdivision are still there thanks to a ferry service established Monday by Dwight Lawrence.
He launched the informal service when floodwater cut off both access roads and turned the subdivision into an island.
Since Monday, he’s made numerous trips in his motorboat to take neighbors across his lawn and swollen Tiger Slough to the new “ferry” landing in Loren and Barbara Dury’s front yard.
Lawrence’s ferry line has become so well established that the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Department asked him to start keep ing a log.
“It’s been kind of nice because there’s a lot of neighbors over there I didn’t really know,” Barbara Dury said. “I’m getting to know them.” Lawrence and many of his neigh bors parked their cars at the Dury residence before the rising Pend Oreille River overloaded the slough and cut them off. But Jerry and Lola Mackin were just back from a trip and thought they had time for a nap before moving their car.
“That was a mistake,” Lola Mackin said.
So Lawrence not only ferries them across the slough now, but drives them to the store in nearby Ione when they need groceries.
Rick Holmes stayed with a friend on the mainland after discovering how wrong he was when he went to work Monday morning, figuring the little bit of water over the road would be no problem.
He couldn’t get back to the other side.
“I could have gone back and got another couple of cars and packed a bag,” Holmes said, “but I just said, ‘Nah, it’ll go down. It always has.”’
Now, residents fear their roads may not reappear for a couple of weeks, and they may be too damaged to use. But the only flooded structure in the subdivision has been one garage. Electricity, telephone and water service haven’t been interrupted, although residents have been advised to boil their water as a precaution.
Sunvale Acres property owner Gail Clark said she was at home in Seattle when she saw her dock on Northwest Cable News.
“I thought I’d better get over here,” she said.
She and the Mackins were chatting with visiting Cathy Gainnou, who lives about 16 miles south in one of the areas that has been hardest hit by the flooding.
“It’s right up to our deck,” Gainnou said, “but we had our place jacked up 3 feet in 1973 (a year after one of the previous worst floods).”
About a half-dozen other houses in that area, near the Outpost Resort, were severely flooded. Some had water halfway to the rafters Friday.
Seven truckloads of sand in 2,900 bags were keeping 2-1/2 to 3 feet of water out of the resort basement. The resort shower room was flooded, but sandbags and two pumps were keeping a threatened guest cabin dry.
Manager Gary Brathovde said the pumps came from neighbor Gary Cowee, who gave up three days ago and now has about 1 feet of water in his house despite a “really impressive” sandbag dike.
Although dry, Brathovde said the resort has been badly hurt financially. Cabin rentals for the past week had to be refunded, the important Memorial Day weekend has been wiped out and a bass fishing tournament that would have brought 100 fishermen next weekend has been moved to the Columbia Basin.
“I’m just hoping it goes down by the Fourth of July so we can salvage something,” Brathovde said. “We have a real short recreational season up here.
“The one real salvation is that we’ve been able to keep the cafe open.”
Some people were starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, though.
“I’m going to make me a sandbox when this gets all done,” said Tara Campos, a clerk at the heavily sandbagged Pend Oreille Grocery in Cusick.
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