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Flood caution issued for river

Water expected to peak Monday at Tonasket gauge

— Potential flood waters on the Okanogan River are expected to reach their highest level Monday.

“The river is forecast to crest on Monday and remain below moderate flood stage,” a National Weather Service statement released Friday said.

The statement came a day after the agency issued a flood warning for the Okanogan River and nearby lowland lakes. As of press time, the flood warning remained in effect.

At 7:15 a.m. Friday, the river level was 14.33 feet – flood stage is 15 feet, officials said, adding minor flooding is predicted for low-lying areas between the city and Oroville.

The river is forecast to rise to 16.4 feet by Monday afternoon, meteorologists said. At 16 feet, river waters will flood pastures around Tonasket as well between Rodeo Trail Road and Benton Street near Omak.

Water levels are not expected to rise above 17 feet, which is the moderate flood stage level, officials said. But if they do, low-lying areas from Okanogan to Oroville will likely flood. Furthermore, some homes near Okanogan could have flooded basements.

According to meteorologists, the water level of rivers and lakes in the Okanogan River basin are rising due to snowmelt in higher elevations.

“It (the Okanogan River) is expected to go over minor flood stage tonight and remain above it into the next week,” the Friday statement said.

With rising waters, officials are cautioning fishermen, boaters and others venturing into the Okanogan River and area lakes.

“The spring snowmelt runoff in lakes and rivers is dangerously cold and can be life-threatening,” meteorologists said, adding that flood waters often bring debris, too.

“High water levels can push logs and other large debris into the river, increasing the danger to people and boats,” officials said. “Be aware of large debris.”

Officials are also cautioning motorists to avoid driving their vehicles through flood waters.

“Never drive cars, trucks or sport utility vehicles through flooded areas,” officials said. “The water may be too deep to allow for safe passage.”

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