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Monday, October 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Feeling More Secure Quick Work In Cataldo Should Block Coeur D’Alene River

By Susan Drumheller Andrea Vogt Contribu Staff writer

The muddy current of the Coeur d’Alene River carried another log past the inundated campground at Cataldo.

Verne Blalack leaned against the hood of his truck and watched it pass. A straw hat shielded his eyes from the sun.

“No problem,” he said.

Blalack, chairman of the Cataldo Flood Committee, was enjoying Monday’s weather and the fact that it would take an awful lot of water to flood Cataldo this year.

The river reached flood stage - 2,143 feet at Cataldo - early Monday, the highest it has been all year.

Both the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers are expected to stay at or above flood stage all week, according to the National Weather Service.

But saturated ground and small streams already are causing their share of problems.

The weather service issued a small stream flood advisory for Boundary and Bonner counties in Idaho and Stevens and Pend Oreille counties in northeastern Washington.

A soggy roadbed gave way under Cow Creek Road east of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, forcing county officials to close it.

Blalack and other Cataldo residents got a little nervous Sunday afternoon when the Coeur d’Alene River started rising extremely rapidly.

When the campground fills with water, it doesn’t take long before water crosses Latour Creek Road and backs up under the Interstate 90 overpass into town.

And on Sunday, the road under the overpass was lower than usual. Construction workers were tearing it up to build a higher road as a flood-prevention measure.

“We were afraid water was going to come into town during the night,” Blalack said.

When he saw what was happening, he called Steve Garritone, one of the contractors for the county.

Garritone and an eight-person crew worked from 6 p.m. Sunday until 4 a.m. Monday building what looks like a giant speed bump under the overpass. They also plugged holes in an old railroad grade to keep as much water as possible off Latour Creek Road.

“The trucks were coming in there every 10 minutes,” Blalack said. “In 10 minutes or less, they can do what it would take a 30-man crew two hours. I feel home-free, pretty much.”

In St. Maries, county Civil Defense Director George Currier had the gates closed in the city dike. Residents filled sandbags and eyed the rising water warily.

The St. Joe River at St. Maries was at 2,133 feet Monday, just a half foot over flood stage, and was expected to rise to 2,134 today.

“People have been cautioned to move stuff out of their basements,” Currier said.

Matt Johnston took advantage of Monday’s sunny weather to work on his new house. He had to rebuild after the February 1996 flood destroyed his mobile home near the Riverdale dike.

“I’ve been surprised at the river this year,” said Matt Johnston. “Last year it was such a bear, and this year it’s been a pussy cat.”

The river still could turn vicious. While the weather gave floodplain residents a respite Monday, the forecast is calling for warmer temperatures and more rain later this week.

Lake Coeur d’Alene was above summer level Monday, and as it continues to rise it will exacerbate flooding problems on the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene rivers.

Small streams and rivers in northern Latah County continued to rise Monday after weekend rain and wind hastened spring melt-off.

The Palouse River at Potlatch jumped its banks in several areas, but was not threatening any homes Monday, while the Potlatch River rose to six inches from overflow levels near Kendrick and Juliaetta, said Latah County Disaster Services Coordinator Gary O’ Keefe.

After more than an inch of weekend rain, most of the county’s creeks and small tributaries were flowing at 80-100 percent capacity by Monday.

Half of the snowmelt from the Hoodoo Mountains and Palouse Divide region flows down into Latah County, O’Keefe said, while the other half drains into the St. Joe River and Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“Even though some of those mountains are south-facing, it just hasn’t melted off,” O’Keefe said. “There’s still a lot of snow in the timber.”

O’Keefe said residents living near rising streams and rivers should closely follow weather forecasts, which call for rain over the next three days. Latah County residents needing sandbags may pick them up free of charge in the Mormon Church parking lot in Moscow, Idaho, at the corner of Joseph and Mountain View.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: FLOOD-CONTROL CLASS Kootenai County Disaster Services and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are sponsoring a class on sandbagging and levee building at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Susan Drumheller Staff writer Staff writer Andrea Vogt contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: FLOOD-CONTROL CLASS Kootenai County Disaster Services and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are sponsoring a class on sandbagging and levee building at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Susan Drumheller Staff writer Staff writer Andrea Vogt contributed to this report.

Wordcount: 794

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