Flash flood swamps Clinton neighborhood
April 6, 2009 · Updated 8:43 AM
A break in a massive beaver dam sent a flash flood roaring down Glendale Creek overnight, swamping homes and washing out Glendale Road (Seattle Times video of the clean up).
About 10 homes in the beach neighborhood were evacuated about 3 a.m. Friday.
About three hours later, a ginormous wave filled with rocks and trees flowed through the beach neighborhood south of the Clinton ferry dock.
“There was a big boom, lots of rumbling and a wall of water filled with trees and rocks was moving through and down the yards,” said Joan Handy.
“I could hear it crashing into the houses, and the corner of the old Ford building is all torn up. I lost my well and don’t have any clean water,” she added.
No injuries were reported.
“Debris, mud, trees ... came crashing down Glendale Canyon and right through the Glendale community,” said Lorinda Kay, a Glendale resident and the office manager for the Record. “It looks like a catastrophe. It is a catastrophe.”
She said water and mud from the swollen creek swept through homes in the neighborhood.
Kay was one of the first to evacuate early Friday morning. She returned home at 7 a.m. to check the damage and had to climb in a back window to retrieve her dog, Hershey.
“There’re two huge trees sitting in my driveway now. It’s a wreck.”
The seawall was threatened, but remained in place as of noon Friday, officials said.
Bill Oakes, county public works director, said Friday morning there was about one to two feet of flooding in the Glendale neighborhood, and that crews had been working through the night.
“We’re currently using all our county forces to repair the damage,” he said.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who represents the South End, was on the scene early Friday.
She said the county has declared an emergency in the area, allowing it to move quickly without a bid process for clean-up work, and to pursue additional state and federal funds.
Price Johnson said she was trying to contact Island County’s state representatives to inquire about assistance.
“We’re going to pursue that for sure,” she said. “We’re going to get everybody back on their feet and get the road reestablished.”
“I’m just grateful we were able to evacuate,” she added. “It’s amazing the devastation that can come from a beaver dam.”
Access to the Glendale community was blocked off at both ends.
County public works crews arrived on scene Thursday and tried to pump water from the overflowing creek around Glendale Road to prevent it from washing out after the culvert under the roadway became clogged.
By late afternoon, half of the road had been washed away.
Lance Landquist, the Bayview shop supervisor for the Island County Public Works Department, said the initial report of high water next to Glendale Road came about 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
The sandy under-base of the roadway was beginning to crumble as crews hooked up a generator to pump water up over the roadway to the other side of the creek about 100 yards from the intersection of Holst Road.
Pumping continued through heavy rainfall Thursday night. The road finally gave way about 6 a.m. Friday, leaving about a 100-foot gap in the pavement and a hole more than 20 feet deep.
Nearby falling trees knocked down power and telephone lines. Downed lines forced the closure of Holst Road at the intersection.
Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Nina Huang said a small number of residents in the area lost power, and that crews were on the way Friday morning to restore service.
Telephone landline service to the Glendale community also was disrupted, and Whidbey Telecom crews were working to restore it.
Landquist said the flood was caused by a breached beaver dam that had backed up about two acres of water about three miles upstream from Glendale Road near Cultus Bay Road.
He said the dam was about 40 feet long and had created a huge pond. He said the breach appeared to be about 10 feet wide, sending water and debris in a rush downstream.
Barbara Howes, who has lived on a bluff above Glendale Creek back from the beach for the past eight years, said the lower part of the Glendale community was “just devastation.”
“Everything is covered with silt,” she said. “There are huge fir tries standing like toothpicks decorating our access road. The road looks to be washed out all the way to the beach. It cut a huge swath.”
“This was expected,” she added, noting that residents in the area have complained for years that the culverts needed cleaning.
“This could have been avoided,” said Glendale resident Mike Thompson. “The people here are going to meet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t take legal action.”
Nancy Boyle’s waterfront home is at the end of Humphrey Road.
“At 2:30 a.m., the fire department banged on the door and told me to evacuate,” she recalled. “I packed a few things, grabbed my dogs and tramped through mud two feet deep.
“The water was rushing under my Toyota, and I could see a big red container bashing into other homes,” Boyle said. “I jumped in and got out of there. I didn’t know I could move so fast.”
Bud Kovic noticed a lot of brown water coming down from the creek about 4 p.m. on Thursday.
“I could see that water was backing up fast,” he said.
Fire District 3 Deputy Fire Chief Jon Beck said all but one person left their homes willingly.
“The one fellow who stayed said he went through the last big slide and didn’t feel he needed to leave,” Beck said.
By Friday morning, Island County road crews and private contractors were working to clear the mess, but damage was extensive.
Curt Gordon brought heavy equipment from Island Asphalt and his workers helped clear the street.
“The house down at the end of the road looks like someone drove huge spears into it,” he said. “It took a lot of force to make that happen.”
To Glendale residents, the flood was eerily reminiscent of the New Year’s Eve flood of 1996 that caused severe damage throughout the county and sent mud and debris through the Glendale neighborhood, wiping out roads and drain fields.
Kay went through the 1996 flooding, too.
“This was a lot worse,” she said.
Record writers Jeff VanDerford and Brian Kelly contributed to this report.