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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Water level falls on Latah Creek, but many Spokane County roads closed by flooding

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 17, 2017

For Neil Jordan, 6 inches would have made all the difference.

“We’re talking 6 inches lower and I wouldn’t have a problem,” said the Colbert resident Friday, while gesturing toward his flooded basement.

Little Deep Creek runs through the property where he has lived for 22 years, with views of rolling wooded hills from his back porch. But on Friday his property looked less like a rural paradise and more like a poorly maintained ice rink.

The accumulated water started to pour over a small retaining wall he built, and down into his basement early Friday. By late morning he had two pumps running and he had built a makeshift barricade of sandbags and wadded-up towels.

Still, he remained upbeat. His basement is cement and unfinished, and he’s seen floods before.

“We need to do some work so if this happens we’re better prepared,” he said.

Across the county melting snow caused flooding and road closures, stretching Spokane County crews and resources. Near Jordan’s home neighbors worked to clear ice dams, using shovels, pickaxes and a tractor.

Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, Spokane County’s public works spokeswoman, said the flooding has stretched county resources.

“We’ve been flying ever since this started,” she said.

There have been so many road closures, in fact, that the county has been forced to create, or rent more signs. Wheatley-Billeter said the county “cleaned out” National Barricade of all its “Road closed” signs.

“Now we only have so many signs,” she said. “And this flooding is pretty widespread. So we’ve had the sign shop cranking.”

Before the flooding started the county had 20 “water over road” signs. Yesterday, they made 50 additional signs, most of which were deployed in the southeastern part of the county. Each sign costs about $30.

More roads continued to be closed during the day Friday and Wheatley-Billeter said in some cases road crews were working in water up to their waists.

Latah Creek hit flood stage early Friday morning for the first time since Dec. 28, 1998.

A river gauge in High Bridge Park, near the creek’s confluence with the Spokane River, measured the depth of the creek at 11 feet starting about 3:30 a.m., said Bryce Williams, National Weather Service meteorologist.

The water in the creek, also known as Hangman Creek, only went a few inches over the 11-foot flood stage and fell below that level by 8 a.m.

The Palouse River in Potlach, Idaho, also was above flood stage for several hours Friday starting about 1:45 a.m.

Paradise Creek in Pullman was over flood stage most of Thursday. Waters receded below flood stage about 2 a.m. Friday.

Mayors of small towns in southern Spokane County said they weren’t seeing flooding yet, though some said they were concerned because of rain expected this weekend.

Spangle Mayor Ralph Sunwold said the water in Spangle Creek was high, but the main problem as of Friday was large accumulations of standing water north of town.

In Rockford, Mayor Carrie Roecks said city staff were working with the Department of Transportation to monitor Rock Creek. As of Friday morning, it had not overflowed. Some residents were reporting flooding in basements and garages due to run-off, she said.

“Our poor church is just under siege,” she said.

Latah had not flooded Friday, Latah Mayor Douglas Arnold said. Hangman Creek was over its banks a bit, he said, but the water wasn’t affecting the town at all.

Back in Colbert, by late Friday morning, water levels started to go down and Little Deep Creek began to flow again. That allowed Jordan to turn off his pumps and start cleaning out his basement.

Rachel Alexander, Nina Culver and Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.

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