The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — The state Department of Natural Resources assumed command of flood response in Okanogan County on Sunday, and more than 100 DNR firefighters arrived to assist with flood control.
Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed a state of emergency Saturday for counties in the eastern part of the state that are experiencing severe flooding.
Flooding is impacting communities in Ferry, Okanogan and Pend Oreille counties and could get worse this week.
The proclamation covers these three plus the 17 other Eastern Washington counties facing an increased threat of flooding over the next seven days.
“Flooding caused by recent rains and snow melt has fouled water and sewage treatment facilities, threatened state highways and local roads, and caused some people to leave their homes,” Inslee said. “Continued higher temperatures are predicted to increase snow melt and cause additional flooding as rivers and streams continue to rise to record or near record levels.”
A DNR Interagency Incident Management Team (Type 3) will now lead flood response efforts in Okanogan County, in close partnership with the county and the state’s Emergency Management Division, according to a press release issued Sunday.
In addition to the Incident Management Team, 10 firefighting crews of 10 people each were deployed from DNR’s correctional camps program. Although the primary role of DNR camp crews is fire suppression, they also are trained to respond to hazards such as flooding.
DNR crews will fill and place sandbags and work to divert water flow by constructing and re-inforcing water-channeling infrastructure.
The State Emergency Operations Center at the Washington Military Department’s Camp Murray was activated Saturday to monitor local efforts and co-ordinate resources to help local officials respond. The proclamation allows the governor to activate resources of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.
The National Weather Service predicts major flooding of the Okanogan River near Tonasket to continue through this week, the Spokesman-Review reported.
The Okanogan River, which runs through Tonasket, reached a level of 19 feet early Friday morning, which is above the 15-foot flood stage.
Okanogan County announced Friday afternoon that it had opened its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate communication about region floods.
The city of Omak has a levy that’s handling water flow, but is experiencing backup in storm drains. Some residents and businesses in Omak are experiencing basement flooding, according to an Omak Police Department release. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Okanogan County Emergency Management are continuing to monitor river levels.
Omak City Administrator Todd McDaniel said the city brought in additional pumps to handle water flow and is on 24/7 watch.
“We believe the levy is going to hold. We are concerned about [water] seepage coming in, but I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “We are hoping we don’t have anyone displaced.”
The Pend Oreille River is forecast to reach a flow of more than 118,000 cubic feet per second by Thursday, which hasn’t occurred since 2011.
The Kettle River reached a crest of 22 feet Friday and is expected to remain above record levels for the week, according to the National Weather Service.
Though not yet above the flood stage, the stretch of the Spokane River in Spokane reached a near-flood stage Friday, though meteorologists predict it will likely crest there and go back down this week.