May 19, 2011 in City

Spokane River nearing flood stage

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Danger zone

The Spokane River was flowing at 31,600 cubic feet per second Wednesday afternoon, approaching flood stage. The Spokane Fire Department is warning people to stay out of the river, which is now covering parts of the Centennial Trail along Upriver Drive east of Mission Avenue. Any part of the trail that’s underwater should be considered closed.

The Spokane River was rising toward flood stage Wednesday, and forecasters said they expect the river to remain at or above that level for weeks.

A flood warning was issued for the river Wednesday, but only minor flooding is expected.

Heavy mountain snowpack combined with rain last week sent a rush of water down rivers feeding Lake Coeur d’Alene, which also is approaching flood stage. On Wednesday the lake was less than a foot below that mark.

The flow down the Spokane River was measured at 31,600 cubic feet per second in Spokane, just below the flood threshold of 32,500 cfs. It’s the highest flow since 2008, when the river crested at 40,600 cfs on May 23.

Hundreds of people gathered along the river at Spokane Falls on Wednesday, taking in the drama. Children danced in a spray of water on a suspension footbridge in Riverfront Park.

John Livingston, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Spokane, said the river should remain high well into June.

Flow into Spokane is restricted by the capacity of the river channel above Post Falls Dam. When the lake is high, the river remains high until the lake level drops.

In addition, flows into the lake are backing up, especially on the St. Joe River at St. Maries, where minor flooding was reported Wednesday. The river there was falling but remained more than 2 feet above flood stage.

Forecasters are calling for a modest upswing in flows over the weekend, with the St. Joe seeing moderate flooding by Monday.

Cool weather this spring has delayed normal snow runoff.

Now, any period of warmer weather is going to aggravate flooding, Livingston said.

“There is still a lot of snow in the mountains,” he said.


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