JANUARY 6, 1997
A 20-foot span of railroad tracks hangs in mid-air above Little Bear Creek a stone's throw from the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Sammamish River, the supports washed out by the flooded creek.
The culvert below the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse became plugged with debris once again, making it necessary to close 148th Avenue NE and build a rock wall to keep the water from flooding the recently transplanted historic houses across the street.
A construction worker attempts to repair the damage caused to NE 178th Street behind McLendon Hardware by the raging Little Bear Creek, which swelled by as much as five feet.
Photos by Jeff Switzer.
by Jeff Switzer
After a wet, heavy snowfall followed by a deluge of winter rain, Northshore rivers swelled to the tops of their banks and beyond last week, flooding homes and making travel treacherous.
In Woodinville, "Little Bear Creek" was not so little, climbing five feet above its normal height and causing the closure of SR-522 for as long as 36 hours. It flooded the house west of SR-522 on NE 195th Street up to the window sills, floating the resident's car in the rising waters.
Farther downstream, the force of the water was so great it bypassed an 8-foot-diameter culvert and washed out NE 178th Street, the private road behind McLendon Hardware, taking the ground from beneath the railroad tracks 50 yards away.
An area resident, his wife and a child were reportedly walking across the road section when it collapsed, the woman and child falling into the water. A passerby helped pull them out, and no injuries were reported.
The tracks remain hanging in mid-air, spanning a 20-foot creek four feet above the water. The railroad ties remain attached, the whole scene visible from the Burke-Gilman trail footbridge just north of the Woodinville trestle.
Georgia Pacific, one of the several businesses stranded by both the collapsed road and the unsupported tracks, waited for crews to repair the road so they could resume shipping their building products. They typically use the tracks, but the repair process for the damage there will take much longer.
North Creek, Swamp Creek threaten homes
Rising high in its banks, North Creek flooded and closed 228th Street SE near Canyon Park, contributing to the swollen Sammamish River downstream. Similarly, Swamp Creek in Kenmore brought out area residents who sandbagged steadily for several days until the water began to subside. Several cross streets west of 73rd Avenue NE were also closed due to flooding.
Also in Kenmore, the Schuck's store at the corner of Bothell Way and 73rd Avenue NE collapsed due to excessive snow loads. The building is expected to be a complete loss, possibly opening the door for future development of this busy corner.
Hollywood Hill still flowing
With King County's stormwater project at the base of Hollywood Hill only one-third complete after the stream stabilization was finished this past fall, the undersized culvert at the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse proved too small for the debris and excessive amounts of water from Hollywood Hill, painting a picture similar to the flooding in February.
"Mother Nature is just not giving us an easy time," said Roy Peterson, public services administrator for Woodinville. "We'll be evaluating whether the stream stabilization did its job and whether this occurrence represents a 100-year storm or a 50-year storm. As stewards of public funds, we have to hit a happy medium, but this wasn't supposed to happen."
Peterson said the stabilization was intended to keep upstream debris out of the downstream culvert, followed by maintenance in Phase II and enlargement of the culvert in Phase III. Whether it was the extreme water flows or the debris, or both, that caused the culvert failure has yet to be determined.
Overall, Peterson said Woodinville fared well during the weather crises.
"We have no major damage to our infrastructure that I'm aware of," he said. "We have a lot of clean-up to do, but we haven't lost roadways or sections of roadways as other areas have. We're pleased with the response of the King County maintenance crews as they assisted the city."
Tributary 87 floods Albertson's lot
Joining the list of overflowing rivers, Woodinville's Tributary 0087, which runs from Hollywood Hill past the medical center and Boston Market on 140th Avenue NE, caused its share of damage. Debris plugged storm drains one by one until the water finally flowed directly into the lot behind the Woodinville Methodist Church, Albertson's, and Ernst.
The debris continued to flow with the water, carrying as much as a foot of sludge in some places and creating a 16-inch-deep lake behind the grocery store.
The Tributary washed out part of the road near the McDonald's drive-thru, while the overflow from the flooded church and grocery store parking lots closed down 140th Avenue NE, damaging the roadway and adding large deposits of gravel.
With much of the city staff on vacation or snowbound, Cliff Olson again plowed the wet and heavy snowy roads of Woodinville, pushing the limits of the city's lightweight plow. After the snows began to melt, Olson worked to close down flooded and impassable roads, though many drivers disregarded the barricades and drove around them.