Motorists almost needed paddles Monday to get through Chewelah, where 6 to 10 inches of water covered U.S. Highway 395.
Water lapped at the doors of two businesses across the road from the municipal park that now more closely resembles a lake, but traffic continued to get through.
Two homes also were threatened. City Administrator Bill Provost said the houses were on a side street that was covered with about 2 feet of water at the point where it dips down from the highway.
“We have contingency plans for re-routing the 395 traffic if it gets any deeper, but it doesn’t look as if we’ll need to do that,” Provost said.
Officials believe the highway may remain flooded for four or five more days.
“A lot of it just depends on the weather,” Provost said. “Right now, it’s holding pretty steady.”
Provost said the Stevens County Conservation District surveyed the snowpack that feeds Chewelah Creek and found 7 feet of snow, which is equivalent to about 4 feet of water. He said the runoff is expected to take a week to 1-1/2 weeks.
The flooding began Sunday morning after a storm Saturday dumped more than a half-inch of rain. Provost said the downpour was complicated by warm temperatures that prevented the overnight freeze that had been intermittently halting the snow runoff long enough for the creek to empty itself partially.
Although Chewelah Creek often floods the city park, the water hasn’t covered Highway 395 since the early 1970s, according to resident Dave Russell. He works at Fulmer’s Garage, where water seeped through the front door.
“We’ve got a nice soggy carpet here in the office,” he said.
Russell said the damage was minimal, and the rest of the automotive repair shop has concrete floors.
He said there was no damage so far at the other threatened business, the Black Rose art and espresso shop next door. The Black Rose was completely surrounded by sandbags, and Fulmer’s was partially sandbagged.
Water was running between the two businesses and re-entering Chewelah Creek on the west side of Highway 395.
“It’s a good place to sell boats,” Russell joked.
In southern British Columbia, meanwhile, creeks in Trail, Castlegar and Warfield burst their banks last weekend after heavy rain. With soil still saturated from storms before freezeup last fall, the water had nowhere to go.
Hundreds of people were forced from their homes temporarily by torrents of water, mud and the threat of leaking natural gas lines. At least one person was killed.
Flooding was mostly under control Monday, allowing crews to begin cleaning up and assessing damage to roads, bridges, railway lines and businesses.
In North Idaho, both the Coeur d’Alene and the St. Joe rivers are expected to stay at or above flood stage all week, according to the National Weather Service.
Saturated ground and small streams already were causing their share of problems Monday.
The Weather Service issued a small stream and flood advisory for Boundary and Bonner counties. A soggy roadbed gave way under Cow Creek Road east of Bonners Ferry, forcing county officials to close it.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = John Craig Staff writer Staff writer Susan Drumheller and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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