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Five rivers at flood stage in region

Sat., April 28, 2012

Mallard ducks swim past a submerged park bench on Friday along the Centennial Trail on Upriver Drive. The Spokane River is covering part of the trail. (Dan Pelle)
Mallard ducks swim past a submerged park bench on Friday along the Centennial Trail on Upriver Drive. The Spokane River is covering part of the trail. (Dan Pelle)

Serious flooding averted; Spokane Falls an attraction downtown

Emergency management officials in North Idaho on Friday said the rush of water from mountain rain and snowmelt was stopping short of serious flooding.

Levees and sandbags were holding at vulnerable locations as the rush of runoff neared its crest.

The peak torrent is moving into Lake Coeur d’Alene and headed downstream to Spokane.

Five of the region’s rivers, including the Spokane, were at flood stage on Friday.

Lake Coeur d’Alene is expected to reach minor flood stage by dawn today and crest late on Sunday about 8 inches above flood stage.

Norm Suenkel, director of emergency management in Benewah County, said levees around St. Maries were holding despite pressure from the flooding St. Joe River. Seepage was spotted in several areas, mainly near unoccupied vacation homes. Also, some roads were covered.

The St. Joe had been forecast to go to 38.8 feet earlier this week. Rainfall on Wednesday and Thursday was less than expected, and that helped keep the river contained, he said.

The St. Joe was at 36.2 feet on Friday afternoon, expected to crest at 36.4 feet early today.

Floodwater was receding on the Coeur d’Alene River at Cataldo where pumps were used to keep water away from residences, said Doug Fredericks, resource specialist with the Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management.

He said the main concern now is at Harbor Island just downstream from the lake. Residents there and a sheriff’s work crew laid sandbags, but were getting a break from a lowered flood forecast.

The lake was at an elevation of 2,132.6 feet on Friday afternoon headed to a crest overnight Sunday of 2,133.76 feet. Flood stage is 2,133 feet.

The Spokane River reached minor flood stage early Friday and was at 27.26 feet by afternoon, about 3 inches above flood stage.

It was expected to add another 3 inches to its flow by the time it crests late Sunday. Flood stage is 27 feet.

Flood stage was also reached on the Kettle River near the Canadian border and on the Yaak River in northwest Montana.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers slowed the outflow from Libby Dam to keep the Kootenai River at Bonners Ferry below flood stage.

Also, Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River near Newport was opened to allow more water to flow out of Lake Pend Oreille to protect property there.

High water was also a concern on the Moyie, Grande Ronde, Naches and Yakima rivers.

In Spokane, the high water flooded the Centennial Trail along Upriver Drive and raised water close to yards and homes in Peaceful Valley.

With the high water, the Spokane Falls has been a big attraction downtown.

The crest in Spokane will occur slowly as Lake Coeur d’Alene drains through the channel at Post Falls. Flows will be at their peak roughly today through Monday, with the river receding below its flood stage by Friday.

Peak flow should be about 35,000 cubic feet per second, or 11,000 cfs higher than at the start of this week.

Suenkel said Thursday’s cold front was evident in the mountains, and had slowed snowmelt. “You can see fresh snow from St. Maries,” he said.

While the cooldown helped for now, Suenkel said there is still enough water in the mountain snowpack to cause another round of high water later this spring.

“I anticipate there will be some high water yet,” he said.

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