Saturday, November 11, 2006


St. Martin's Day

I took a lengthy detour from the usual Saturday ride to view the remains of the havoc wrought by this week's flooding. There was plenty left to see.

The Snoqualmie River valley is pretty much a giant lake with a few islands and marshy sections. The gulls and other shore birds were abundant, and there were even snow geese out there. Cattle were crammed onto the muddy patches of higher ground.

I've seen more water in the valley in floods past, but I didn't go exploring for details then. Like pumpkins that ended up in trees when the water receded. Or round hay bales wrapped in white plastic that drifted into a stand of trees like a flotilla run aground. Or the new lake that's just south of the Snohomish airport; odd bits of stuff had accumulated on its northern "shore" (a plastic kids' picnic table, a gas can, innumerable bottles).

I took two sidetrips that I knew were deadends. First, I went across the bridge (which is new since the last big flood washed away the old one) that's at the junction of High Bridge, West Snoqualmie Valley, and Crescent Lake Roads. Crescent Lake Rd. is still underwater, but I just wanted to see what I could see. Duck hunters, mostly. Cool dudes in pickup trucks jacked waaaaay up driving through deep standing water. After I turned around, a guy in another pickup pulled off High Bridge Rd and asked me if I had ridden through it!

Second, I rode west on River Road from Snohomish as far as I could. There are signs that say the road is closed, but there are homes and businesses and therefore traffic going out that way. There is a fine layer of silt on the road from the flood waters washing across it; it's slippery when it's wet, and it blows in your face when it's dry. Just past the last business (topsoil place) there were more "road closed" barriers and then a massive pile of dirt that was clearly intended as a barricade. No motor vehicle could get over or around it, but they left just a foot of space on the north shoulder that I could get my bike around, so I rode all the way out to the edge of the new lake. There is a dump truck out there in the standing water that must be stuck or stalled. The stretch of water is only a few hundred meters long because you can see another earthen barricade on the side--and since there was a pickup truck over there with its lights on, I assume you can get that far if you come from the west end of River Road.

It seemed that all the houses and barns on W Snoq Vall Rd were okay with just lots of mud and vastly smaller pastures. The road itself had not been underwater (no muck or scum or other substances you don't want to think about). But on the River Road, the homes and yards had all been flooded. The houses are maybe 50 feet from the river and lower than the road which is between them and it. Old vehicles and tractors and even buses had been towed from backyards up to the "high ground" on the shoulder of the road. Anything that was piled around a house had floated some distance away. Woodpiles, for example, drifted downstream. Kids toys were in odd places. Most of the houses along there have been jacked up about 15 feet (many since the last flood), but I came across one 1960s-ish rambler with all its carpet and pillows and beds piled on the front lawn; you could see the high water mark about halfway up to the windows on the outside of the house. Most of these homes still had lakes in their backyards.

They say that natural disasters are, ultimately, good for local economies because people have to rebuild and replace and hire tradesmen. And there's a reason for the flood plain evaluation you pay for when you buy a house. There's a quote in the Everett Herald today from a 76-year-old woman in the valley who was more worried about her family's cattle than her house or anything in it. But still, my heart goes out to all those people who've had their lives disrupted and their homes ravaged. Including the owners of the Christmas tree farm, still under water, on Springhetti Road--they might be wishing for a way to grow some of those $400 plastic trees from Sky Nursery (see yesterday's entry)!

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