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Flooding takes toll as warm-up continues

Fri., March 7, 2014

Leone Browning, 94, was upstairs in her Spangle home Wednesday evening when her son yelled up to her that she had to get out within five minutes. Melting snow, heavy rain and frozen ground combined to send sheets of water down the hill behind her home, where it met a raging Spangle Creek.

It was the second time in three weeks that floodwater forced her out of the house, one of five adjacent homes inundated by floodwaters in Spangle on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe I am going through this,’ ” she said.

Across the Inland Northwest, floodwaters covered roads and fields and forced closure of the North Idaho College campus in Bonners Ferry.

Two drivers and a passenger were injured when two vehicles went into an 8-foot-deep hole washed out on Rimrock Road at York Court near Hayden Lake.

More than three-quarters of an inch of rain fell at Spokane International Airport on Wednesday, breaking a 64-year-old daily record.

Late Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Little Spokane River, which was expected to rise several inches above flood stage Thursday night at Dartford Drive.

In Spangle, James Browning scrambled to make sure his grandmother and three other family members were safe before the floodwaters got too deep.

Leone Browning said she motored her wheelchair through water that came up along the wheels.

“It was just like a snake coming at me that I couldn’t push away,” she said Thursday from the home of fellow church members – Marilyn Wear and her mother, Mildred Beitzel – who took her in.

After the flood in mid-February, Leone Browning ended up staying with Wear and Beitzel until last weekend.

On Wednesday night, “James called in a panic, ‘Can you take her in?’ ” Wear said.

They enlisted the help of neighbor Dale Ryan, who owns a van equipped for disabled people. “It’s neighbor helping neighbor,” Wear said.

Leone Browning said, “I think you can tell I am pretty grateful.”

Wear said, “We’ll just have to keep her. She’s a sweetheart.”

By Thursday afternoon, the floodwaters had dropped about 6 inches. James Browning and a neighbor had hooked up pumps to force the floodwater out of their homes and into a nearby ditch.

The water filled Browning’s crawl space rising to the floor joists of his 2003 home and ruined insulation and insulated duct work that he had just replaced from the February flood.

He carries national flood insurance. Now, he said, he is going to have to file a second claim.

Two Spokane County Conservation District staffers were at the scene Thursday afternoon, explaining that a road bridge downstream was inadequate to handle the kind of runoff the area has seen twice in less than a month. The bridge needs replacing, said Rick Noll, water resources project coordinator for the conservation district.

In addition, culvert pipes and ditches under a rail bed adjacent to the flooded homes will need regular cleaning and grass removal to avoid problems in the future, they said.

“I have to have a sense of humor through it all,” Leone Browning said.

Elsewhere, floodwaters and mud temporarily blocked Washington state Highways 23 and 231 north of Sprague in Lincoln County. The highways reopened Thursday morning.

The washout on North Rimrock Road in Kootenai County was blamed on a culvert failure and created a gap in the roadway 10 feet across and 8 feet deep.

Clifton McMahon, 24, of Hayden, was injured after crashing his vehicle into the gap. Melissa Ehrmantraut, 31, of Post Falls, and her passenger Anthony Moreno, 47, of Coeur d’Alene, were also injured and taken to Kootenai Health after driving into the hole.

About 150 people in the area were without water. Disruptions of phone and natural gas services were also possible during repairs, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Northwest of Coeur d’Alene, flooding closed Prairie Avenue between Atlas and Huetter roads, the sheriff’s office said. The road was expected to reopen Thursday.

The North Idaho College Center in Bonners Ferry closed Thursday due to flooding at the branch at 6791 Main St.

The college did not say if it would be reopening Monday, the next day classes are scheduled.

“Most of our problem is standing water on roads,” said Mike Meier, public information officer for Boundary County. “We got 2 feet of snow in 36 hours. Then a day later, it’s 40 degrees. Until the ground thaws out, there’s nowhere for that water to go.”

Noll, with Spokane County, said the conditions seen in February and again this week with mild rain on snow over frozen ground will typically affect smaller drainage basins and do not cause larger streams and rivers to flood.

Daily rainfall records were also broken at Mullan Pass, Ephrata, Wenatchee, Omak and Chief Joseph Dam, the weather service said.

Forecasters say the milder weather will stick around through the weekend, with highs expected in the upper 40s and lower 50s and rain on Saturday night and Sunday.

Forecasters said continued precipitation and snow melt could result in minor flooding of main rivers next week in North Idaho.

Lake Coeur d’Alene is expected to crest about 3 feet below flood stage by Thursday. The Coeur d’Alene River at Cataldo was forecast to crest about 6 inches above flood stage by this afternoon and remain high into next week. The St. Joe River at St. Maries was expected to stay just below flood stage.

Meanwhile, avalanche danger continued in the mountains. U.S. Highway 12 east of Lewiston remained closed Thursday due to avalanche danger, according to the Idaho Department of Transportation.

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