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Surging Spokane River likely to start receding today

Mark Reilly, director of the Peaceful Valley Community Center, piles sandbags against the rising water of the Spokane River. 
 (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Mark Reilly, director of the Peaceful Valley Community Center, piles sandbags against the rising water of the Spokane River. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A hastily built wall of sandbags gave Mary Faulhaber hope Thursday that she’ll make it through the weekend without her Peaceful Valley home flooding.

“The neighborhood really rallied,” said Faulhaber’s daughter, Deanna Smulan, explaining that friends, neighbors and others spent a couple of hours laying the sandbags Wednesday evening. “The response has just been overwhelming.”

The National Weather Service said Thursday evening the Spokane River was unlikely to rise much – if at all – in the city. By 6 p.m. it had reached 1.3 feet above flood stage, where it was expected to remain until early this morning.

Spokane Public Works Director Dave Mandyke said river water could reach at most a few Spokane homes.

A mighty snowpack coupled with a warm weekend created this week’s massive flow in the Spokane River. This year marks the eighth-highest annual peak flow in the river since it was first measured in the 1890s. About 288,000 gallons of water each second were passing a gauge downstream of the Monroe Street Bridge on Thursday afternoon. That’s almost twice as much as during a typical annual high flow.

“It’s definitely a frightening site,” said Mayor Mary Verner, after visiting with Smulan and viewing the sandbag wall. “The flow is incredibly fast.”

Verner and other city officials toured Peaceful Valley and other sites Thursday. The city also dropped off bags and a load of sand to fill them in Peaceful Valley and near Upriver Drive – another area experiencing flooding. Residents can use the bags as needed, Mandyke said.

In Smulan’s view, the city’s action came too late. She said she requested help Tuesday but never got a response. So she bought 1,000 bags, and a private business, CAD of Spokane, donated sand.

At a news conference Thursday, Verner said she was unaware of Smulan’s requests. She added that the city’s first priority during flooding was protecting public assets such as streets. The mayor added that dropping off the sand Thursday still could help because earlier predictions showed the river cresting during the weekend.

“We don’t sandbag private property,” Mandyke said. “Having said that, if we get into an emergency situation, we’ll bring all our resources to bear.”

Water was touching Terry Fetch’s Peaceful Valley apartment Thursday afternoon.

He said he’s lived in the building, which is almost under the Maple Street Bridge, for 18 years. Fetch said he’s not worried because the structure was built to withstand river flooding, and it has successfully done so for a century.

Meanwhile, Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams warned that the county’s order for people to stay out of the river remains active.

The river is so risky, Williams said, that fire crews might not attempt rescuing someone unless it’s clear that the person is “savable.”

Other flooding-related developments:

Spokane County

Already closed in Spokane County are East Upriver Drive from Mission Avenue to Greene Street, and South Riverton, officials said.

No one is allowed in the Spokane River even if wearing flotation devices, per an emergency order issued by the county commissioners.

North Idaho

On Thursday, high waters had caused the closure of several roads in Kootenai County: Latour Creek Road; River Road; Dudley Road; Black Rock Road east of state Highway 3; Bull Run Road; Killarney Lake Road; Lake Road; Rainy Hill Road; Medimont Road, Cataldo Drive; Evans Creek Road; Thompson Lake Road; CCC Road; Squaw Bay Road at Eddyville Road; Blue Lake Road at the Springston Bridge; and Willow Creek Road.

Officials for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes said that about 32 miles of the recreational trail have been closed between Harrison and Enaville because of flooding.

They did not know when the section would reopen.

A news release announcing the closure said the trail remains usable east from Enaville to the Mullan trailhead and from Harrison to Plummer.