River continues to drop, but another crest is expected

Sandbags protect Free Bird Espresso, 326 N. Second Ave., Okanogan, on May 12.

OKANOGAN — The Okanogan River continued to drop this morning, May 13, although another, higher crest is anticipated later this week.

The runoff-swollen river crested early Saturday morning, May 12, at 19.71 feet at Janis bridge south of Tonasket. That's the third-highest level in recorded history; only 1972 at 22.54 feet and 1948 at 21.79 feet were higher.

Another crest is anticipated Saturday, May 19, at about 21.5 feet.

Volunteers spent most of Friday and Saturday sandbagging on North Second Avenue in Okanogan as water seeped through the dike around the 500 block.

State mobilization was requested Saturday in hopes that outside crews could give local firefighters and other volunteers a rest before the next crest, said Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall. As Saturday evening, mobilization had not been authorized, although state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced Sunday morning that her department was assuming command of flood response in Okanogan County.

More than 100 Department of Natural Resources firefighters will assist with flood control.

“When any Washingtonian is threatened, we must all heed the call,” said Franz. “I want the families affected by the flooding to know that we stand with them and we will do everything we can to help.”

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in Okanogan and other eastern Washington counties on Friday.

Franz said a Type 3 DNR Interagency Incident Management Team will lead flood response efforts in close partnership with the county and the state’s Emergency Management Division.

DNR crews will fill and place sandbags and work to divert water flow by constructing and reinforcing water-channeling infrastructure.

Goodall said the Oroville-Tonasket area, while experiencing flooding, is holding its own, as is Riverside. A dike north of town broke, but most flooding was into fields.

Lake Osoyoos, which normally has a level around 913 feet, swelled to 917.5 feet. Oroville Veterans Memorial Park was flooded and berms were placed to stop the water's advance into town.

Salmon Creek spilled its banks in Riverside, but sandbagging kept the bulk of the water in the channel.

Omak is doing well, with some seepage, said Fire Chief Kevin Bowling. Crews are patrolling the dikes 24 hours a day.

Okanogan's North Second Avenue has been closed between Maple and Greta streets since Friday, as water crept into Legion Park and flooded back yards along the street. Water spilled onto the street near the leaking dike.

Community members and a church group supplemented firefighters from Fire District No. 3 in sandbagging efforts. Goodall said a woman in the neighborhood fired up her grill and provided workers with hot dogs.

He said he's been working with health officials, the state Department of Ecology and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Super sacks" - large sandbags - were placed along Highway 97 south of Tonasket to keep water off the highway.

All bridges are intact; the state Department of Transportation has a boom truck staged in Brewster to pick logs out of the river if they back up against bridges.

Goodall said people with water in their basements are advised not to pump them, since that could cause walls to buckle or collapse.

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