Kyle Jensen / The Record Many houses on Brighton Beach Road were flooded due to a breach of the berm that directs down hill water to Puget Sound.

Torrential downpour breaches Brighton Beach berm in Clinton

An evening rainstorm last week was too much for the Brighton Beach berm, or small dike, resulting in numerous homes becoming small islands and turning at least one resident’s basement into a swimming pool.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS responders attempted to board up the basement to prevent flooding, but it was completely overrun with storm water.

“At one point we were upstairs and we heard loud noises coming from the basement,” Clinton resident Stacie Burgua said. “It’s pretty terrifying to hear your freezer floating around the basement, banging against the walls.”

Burgua, who is executive director at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, arrived home around 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 15 after driving through the torrential downpour to find the empty lot next to her home flooded as well as some areas on her neighbors’ properties. When she went into her home, she found water seeping through the cracks in the basement. She called the fire district to help prevent basement flooding, but the responders could only do so much.

“There was about two to three inches of water in the house, so we propped up and tried to salvage as much as we could in the basement,” fire Chief Rusty Palmer said. “We tried to prop it up about six or seven inches.”

When a Record reporter visited Burgua’s home Wednesday afternoon, workers were pumping water out of the pond next to her home. Burgua’s basement was submerged in what she estimated was four feet of water. A laundry bin, a piece of furniture and what appeared to be a picture frame could be seen floating in the brown-tinted water from the staircase. She said nearly everything was lost in the basement: the guest room, the office, the water heater. There was a positive, though.

“The only silver lining is I saved the bookshelves filled with scrapbooks and the family albums,” Burgua said. “That’s the one thing I would have been devastated to lose.”

Burgua and responders from South Whidbey Fire/EMS and Island County Public Works said the cause of the flooding was a breach of the berm behind Burgua’s home. Brighton Beach is sandwiched between the beach north of the Clinton Ferry Terminal and a large hillside, so when it rains, a berm behind the beachfront properties keeps the downhill water from flooding the properties.

Phil Cohen, surface water manager for Island County Public Works, said there were two factors in the flooding.

“The source of the flooding is two things,” Cohen said. “They put in a new berm that didn’t hold the water back from the hillside, and we think they had a busted pipe at the beach where the water exits.”

Cohen added he heard the Langley weather station registered about 1.25 inches of rain between 4 and 8 p.m.

The flooding occurred outside of the county’s jurisdiction, Cohen said. Brighton Beach has its own drainage district, so Cohen said county public works could only suggest solutions to district commissioners. The drainage district commissioner couldn’t be reached by press time.

Burgua and Cohen said the drainage district had recently conducted work on the berm to prevent things like this from happening, yet the berm was breached. And although Burgua is disappointed with the damage, she seemed in surprisingly good spirits having salvaged some prized possessions.

“It’s shocking and disappointing for everyone in the neighborhood that this work went into the dike, but it didn’t work,” Burgua said. “But at least I saved the photos, so I’m pretty happy with that.”

Kyle Jensen / The Record Contractors pump storm water from an empty lot at Brighton Beach in Clinton. The lot and the surrounding area was estimated to be submerged in about four feet of water.

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