BELLINGHAM – With floodwaters receding in parts of Washington state – even as it rained again Thursday – damage assessments are beginning and Gov. Jay Inslee is promising he’ll aggressively seek federal money.
In a visit to Whatcom County on Wednesday, Inslee said about 500 homes had damage from the storms. He spoke with the mayors of Everson and Sumas and was astonished at the devastation he saw, the Bellingham Herald reported.
“I’m told they did top all-time flood levels in some places,” he said.
He said damage figures will be compiled in a bid for federal assistance.
Sumas city officials said Thursday that volunteers had begun going door-to door to determine which homes were damaged.
At a Thursday news conference, Inslee reiterated the importance of keeping records of costs related to damages.
“You cannot be assured of this (aid) in part because the federal rules are very amorphous,” he said. “But we’re going to do our level best to assemble all of the damage so that we can make the strongest possible case to the federal government.”
Laura Anker, Cherry Street Market store manager in Sumas, said Thursday that they were in full clean-up mode.
“It’s not great, but we’re hanging in there,” she said.
The Red Cross said Thursday it is operating three shelters north of Seattle to support residents displaced by flooding. Inslee said short-term shelter and housing options are being investigated for people in Whatcom County as well as cash assistance.
In British Columbia, Canada, the federal government was sending in the military to help with floods and mudslides that destroyed parts of several major highways. Vancouver, B.C., was cut off by road from the interior of the province.
The mayor of Abbotsford, B.C., said he would speak with Inslee to discuss severe flooding on the Canadian side of the border at least partially caused by swollen rivers in the United States.
Transportation officials on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula were also assessing conditions and clearing debris from roads as state agencies, including the military, worked to bring fuel to the Makah Tribe, which was cut off by damaged roads, and drinking water to residents in the Clallam Bay and Sekiu areas.
A landslide several days ago caused a water main to break, and the Clallam Bay water reserve was nearly depleted by Wednesday night, officials said.
The Pacific Northwest was hit with days of continuous rain and wind that eased on Tuesday.
More rain fell in Bellingham from Saturday through Monday – about 5.57 inches – than normally falls there during all of November, according to National Weather Service data. The normal monthly rain total is 5.2 inches for November, the agency said.
After a year of deadly heat, drought, forest fires and smoke and floods, not only does the state need to make roads, utilities, sewer and water systems more resilient against climate change, additional steps will be needed to reduce the carbon pollution that is causing climate change, Inslee said.
“All these natural disasters spell one thing and that is the footprint of climate change that is attacking our state,” he said.
Inslee said the state is not meeting its goals for carbon reduction and that he will ask the Legislature in the next session to take further steps to that end.
“We’ve had some success in Washington state but we need to have more,” he said.
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