Sumas, Everson residents advised to evacuate before flood

Date: 2021-11-29 04:43:49

Floodwaters from the Nooksack River have spilled across Main Street in Everson for the second time in two weeks, according to a Facebook post by the City of Sumas Sunday afternoon.

“We just sounded the flood siren in Sumas because the Nooksack River has come over the bank in Everson and is going across Main Street,” the post made at 3:17 p.m. read. “As a reminder, there might only be a short amount of time before the roads going in and out of Sumas could be closed due to high water. After that point, it will be safer to shelter in place. Please make any necessary preparations now.”

An emergency alert advising Sumas and Everson residents to voluntarily evacuate Saturday night, Nov. 27, was sent out shortly before 6 p.m. as rain continued to fall in Whatcom County.

“Life safety is our primary concern. Road closures begin as early as 4 a.m. Sunday,” the flooding alert read.

News that the river has flooded Main Street in Everson was expected, as Everson Mayor John Perry earlier Sunday afternoon reported on Facebook that the Nooksack River had topped Emerson Road and is now heading toward Main Street in Everson.

“We anticipated it reaching East Main Street around 3 p.m.,” Perry wrote in a Facebook post made shortly before 2 p.m. “Expect East Main Street to be closed between Blair Drive and Highway 9 sometime between 3 and 4 this afternoon.”

Despite that news, Perry said the forecast for the Nooksack has not changed.

“It is still expected to crest at Cedarville around 10 p.m.,” Perry wrote. “The river should crest in Everson around midnight if the projections don’t change.”

Flooding impacts could include levee overtopping at Main Street in Everson Sunday morning, Nov. 28, according to Whatcom County’s website. Water may then move downstream to Sumas and across the border to Canada, it stated.

And a third round of persistent rain is taking aim at Western Washington for midweek, the National Weather Service says.

The City of Bellingham reported that it measured two inches of rainfall between midnight and 7 a.m. Sunday at the Post Point treatment facility with more anticipated.

Before midnight Sunday, the National Weather Service reported Bellingham has seen 11.64 inches of rain so far in November — an all-time record for the month.

According to a Facebook post by Everson Mayor John Perry at 9:20 a.m., there has been very little change in the Nooksack River flows to this point.

“Gauge at Cedarville shows it is still flowing at about the same rate as it has been since 2 am.,” Perry wrote. “The south fork gauge is showing an increase in flows due to the rain. We expect to see the river levels rise in Everson this afternoon, but at this point it looks like moderate flooding. The projected crest in Cedarville is about (3 feet) lower then the levels we reached two weeks ago.”

Perry reported that farmland is slowly beginning to fill with water and the area creeks and streams have overrun their banks, but he added, “Overall though, we are looking better than expected and we are hoping this trend continues.”

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Sunday at 8:58 a.m. forecasting minor flooding from the Nooksack River in Ferndale. The river is expected to rise above the 18-foot flood stage in the afternoon, cresting at 19.8 feet late Monday morning, Nov. 29. The service said the crest compares to flooding Jan. 11, 1983.

The National Weather Service also issued flood warnings Sunday for the Nooksack River at North Cedarville and the South Fork of the Nooksack at Saxon Bridge.

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Iowa Street in Bellingham, Wash., is once again beginning to flood near Interstate 5 on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The City of Sumas Facebook page posted an update Sunday at 8:30 a.m. that said the Nooksack River has not yet gone over its banks in Everson. While projections are a little lower Sunday, the river is still expected to go over in the afternoon. “We are still expecting to have flooding in Sumas by this evening or early in the morning,” it stated.

It added that sand and sandbags are still available across from the Sumas Fire Station.

A Sunday Facebook post from the Everson Police Department reported Hampton, Timon and Northwood roads have been closed since 4:30 a.m. due to a levee breach at Timon Road. Water is flowing over Hampton Road.

The most current forecast for the Nooksack River shows a slightly lesser flood than 2020, according to the post. “This is subject to change as the weather conditions do, but it’s trending in a more positive direction at this point. We had a break in the rain and it now looks like our first road closure in Everson wouldn’t occur until around noon when we’d see water reaching Emerson Road.

“We are seeing standing water on some of our surface streets. In Everson, Blair & Lincoln have standing water due to storm drains backing up. In Nooksack, Gillies road is closed between Whispering Meadows and Alm Rd. South Pass rd has standing water between SR-9 and Oat Coles Rd. Oat Coles road has water flowing over at Swift creek. Massey has water in some spots. Please drive with caution.”

Lummi Nation advised its residents Saturday evening to prepare for more flooding, noting on the Lummi Communications Facebook page that road closures were possible.

The Red Cross shelter is open at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center, 1775 Front St. in Lynden. The Ferndale Severe Weather Shelter is open at Christ Lutheran Church, 5904 Vista Drive, Ferndale, from 5 p.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Monday, according to a Ferndale Facebook post.

The Halverstick Road debris site is closed Sunday, according to a Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office post on Facebook. It said: “Water over the roadway leading to and from the location may be a hazard to anyone who visits the site. We will continue to monitor the area and reopen the site when the conditions improve.”

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The National Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are assisting local agencies with sandbagging, transportation of supplies, and providing support to Nooksack, Sumas, and Everson on Saturday, Nov. 27, ahead of a return of higher river levels and a potential recurrence of flooding in recently affected areas. In addition to preparing and distributing sandbags, responders are monitoring and barricading flooded roads, and staging for water rescues if needed. Law enforcement units are working to keep traffic off flooded or flood-damaged county roads. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was working to repair levee systems Saturday, including the levee upstream from the Everson Bridge and a levee breach near Ferndale.

“However, even with repairs, the levee system has been stressed and could be vulnerable in the next storm event,” the county stated.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, along with U.S. Border Patrol Search and Rescue, local fire district personnel, and approximately 30 members of the Washington State National Guard, are at work in response, the website stated. “The Guard is staging to assist local agencies with sandbagging, transportation of supplies, and providing support to Nooksack, Sumas, and Everson. In addition to preparing and distributing sandbags, responders are monitoring and barricading flooded roads and staging for water rescues if needed. Border Patrol units will be working to keep traffic off flooded or flood-damaged county roads.”

The areas that are now likely to flood were inundated as the Nooksack River surged over its banks on Nov. 14.

Damages from that flooding could reach as high as $50 million, Whatcom County officials said at an online briefing Nov. 23.

John Gargett, deputy director of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management, said he wouldn’t be surprised if public and private damages and economic losses reach that mark.

Included among that $50 million, Gargett said, were estimates of $15 to $20 million in damage to houses in the area, “tens of millions of dollars” in damage to public infrastructure and another $15 to $20 million in damage to area business centers.

The next storm

As of Sunday, morning, the National Weather Service is predicting another system to bring a third round of persistent rain to the region Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 30 through Dec. 1.

Snow levels with the storm are expected to rise to 9,000 to 10,000 feet again, and “overall rainfall amounts now look similar compared to the weekend’s system,” the National Weather Service said.

It is uncertain how area rivers will respond to the additional rainfall, “however, given saturated soils, the potential for new or continued flooding is increasing,” the forecast read.

Threats for landslides also will increase, giving the saturate soils and with periods of heavy rainfall and wind from the system acting as triggers.

Gusty winds are also expected once gain, before the rain is expected to taper Thursday and give way to drier, cooler weather.

This story was originally published November 27, 2021 6:20 PM.

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Julie Shirley directs news coverage for The Bellingham Herald and has been the executive editor since 2003. She’s been an editor in Florida, California and Washington since 1979.

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