The water has to go somewhere, and a lot of it late this week was in the Maxwelton Valley.
An intense period of heavy rain unusual even for this time of year on Whidbey Island has resulted in mudslides and flooding in several areas of the South End, keeping county officials and property owners hopping.
In lower Maxwelton, standing water was evident south of French Road on Thursday, and several residents along Maxwelton Road south of Dave Mackie Park at Maxwelton Beach were coping with flooding around their garages and houses.
Ankle-deep water covered the road in the area, with deeper water in yards and gardens.
“It is what it is,” said Maxwelton resident Sommer Albertsen. “You make the most of it.”
Nearly a half-inch of rain has been recorded on the South End the past month, 0.16 inch on Wednesday, March 9 alone, according to whidbeyweather.com, which tracks daily climate activity on the island.
Already, there have been nearly 6.5 inches of rain this year, the service reported.
Respite from the downpours appears to be under way, however. The sun was out on Thursday, and the forecast is for mostly dry days through the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service office in Seattle.
Many of the homes along the southern end of Maxwelton Road were surrounded by water Thursday, though the water level had appeared to drop several inches by day’s end.
At least one home was lined with sandbags to keep the water at bay, and the water was up to the front doors of other cabins.
Children’s toys and gardening gear floated near the front porch of another home near Maxwelton Beach Lane, and the water was more than a foot deep in many places along the road. The small ballfield on Maxwelton Beach Lane was completely under water.
Toward the end of Maxwelton Road, Albertsen was surveying the situation with
her family’s cabin and A-frame next door on the Swede Hill side of the road on Thursday. Water had flowed down the bluff behind the structures and deposited shin-deep water in the yards.
Albertsen, who lives across the street a couple of doors down, said she came to assess the flooding and to borrow some vegetable oil to make bread.
She said the buildings, owned by her family for years, are currently unoccupied, and neither had been damaged by the water.
Albertsen, a South End native, said she remembers flooding in the area throughout her life. One Christmas, adults carried the children piggyback from house to house, she said.
“I remember rowboats going down Maxwelton,” she added.
Although the county has begun planning sessions to determine the best way to deal with flooding in the area, the process is still in its early stages.
“You just have to have a pair of rubber boots and walk through it,” Albertsen said of the water.
Mudslides and flooding occurred in several other locations around the South End the past few days, due mostly to the heavy rains that have pounded the area.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a series of storms like this,” said Bill Oakes, Island County public works director.
“We’ve seen a lot more sliding than we normally would,” he said Thursday.
The largest mudslide occurred this past Saturday, when tons of earth broke free from a steep bluff at the foot of the Whidbey Shores residential community at East Point, blocking the narrow private roadway serving about 20 houses.
The slide also carried mud, trees and debris into several yards, pushed around and slightly damaged two vehicles and flowed against two houses, damaging propane tanks and disrupting power.
The large slide was followed by several smaller ones in the ensuing four days, forcing local excavator Dale Strickland to work long hours to keep the road passable.
Strickland said Thursday that the drier weather has prevented more dirt from sliding down the bluff, and that the worst appears over for now.
“The next few days should be a blessing for us,” Strickland said. “We’ll be back clearing on the weekend.”
Oakes said several other slides and minor flooding have kept county crews busy.
On Tuesday, about 100 cubic yards of mud and debris tumbled into Glendale Creek about 400 feet upstream from the tiny beach community, followed by smaller slides in the area in succeeding days.
Crews had removed truckloads of sediment and debris from the creek, and have managed to keep the stream within its banks, and that culverts remain clear.
Oakes said that because of the time of year, salmon spawning in the creek wasn’t affected by the slide, and that the county’s fish reclamation project continues in the area.
Meanwhile, slides and water over roadways were reported at the Double Bluff Beach area, Columbia Beach and Beverly Beach.
Minor flooding and blocked culverts were reported earlier in the week at Stewart Road, Double Bluff Road, Newman Road, Bounty Loop at Mutiny Bay Road, and Goss Lake Road.
Oakes said crews from the county’s road shop at Bayview were bolstered by personnel from Coupeville and Oak Harbor, and that the tons of material cleared from slide areas was being trucked to the county’s gravel pits for storage.
Lakes in the South End were also rising due to the heavy rainfall, but so far not to dangerous levels, residents said.
“You can’t even get to the dock at Deer Lake, the water is so high,” said South Whidbey Parks & Recreation Director Terri Arnold.
Rising water levels also were reported at Lone Lake and Goss Lake, but nowhere near historic high marks, said Dave Rose, longtime Goss Lake resident and head of the community organization Friends of Goss Lake.
“We’ve got another four or five feet to go” to reach danger levels, Rose said Thursday of 47-acre Goss Lake. “It’s rising a bit, but it’s still within totally normal range for this time of year.”
“And right now the sun is shining, so I think we’ll be fine,” he added.
Tom Fallon, facilities and maintenance supervisor for the South Whidbey Parks & Rec District, said this week that many of the district’s playfields have been under water.
A trail from the district headquarters to South Whidbey Community Park was closed due to water, just the third time in 13 years the trail had been shut down, Fallon said.
More than 100 feet of the Waterman Loop Trail remained under four inches of water on Friday.
At Deer Lagoon, the county’s most controversial pump is proving its worth, Island County Diking District 1 Commission Chairman Steve Arnold said Thursday.
“Thank goodness we had it,” Arnold said. “This is the reason we did this. I’m glad we had a little foresight.”
The $430,000 high-speed pump project installed by the district in late 2008 has been slapped with lawsuits by a group of district residents who say the project was inappropriately approved, is unfairly assessed and is a hazard to the wetlands environment of the district.
Arnold said the water levels set for the high-speed pump and its smaller companion have created enough extra storage capacity in the district’s diking system to keep flooding in the area at normal levels despite the heavy rainfall.
“It’s working just the way we planned,” Arnold said of the pump. “I’m glad it’s in place.”
Record writer Brian Kelly contributed to this report.