Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Levees

So, I'm happy to report that the levees along the Green River held and we didn't have a flood here this week in Kent. But it was a near thing.

We've had a lot of wet weather, and the reservoirs can only hold so much. So sometimes they have to let as much water through the dam as they can, to make room for more water on the way, given that it hadn't stopped raining yet. Better to have a controlled release if they can and let the levees do their work.

They send out the warning in stages. Phase Two involves an email and a phone call letting those of us down on the valley floor know that there might be some flooding in rural areas upstream of Auburn (the next town over).*

The Phase Three warning came at 1.13 in the morning, which is an unsettling time to get a do-not-panic-all-is-well phone call. It let us know that "Moderate flooding" was expected but that urban areas shd be okay. Later that day (Thursday) Janice and I went out walking on the Green River Trail near the Neely-Soames House and were startled by how high the river was. I'd only seen it this high before once; Janice said this was the highest she'd ever seen it.

Friday evening came the Phase Four warning, which is rather alarming:

The Green River is in flood phase 4. Major flooding may occur. Critical flood control levees may weaken from saturation. Sudden changes in flood conditions are possible including rapidly rising water, widespread inundation, road closures, and utility disruptions. Be alert and prepare to respond quickly. 

At this point, all you can do is have flashlights near at hand in case the power fails (it did not), know where the cats are so we cd grab them up in case a hasty exit was called for, and hope the levees do their job.

They did.

We wd probably have been okay, since as low down as we are (about thirty feet above sea level) we're not at the lowest point of the valley floor. But it was still a relief when they went back to Phase Three, meaning that the crisis had passed. And it's good to know that the levees are in good shape. They've been upgrading and reinforcing the levee in stages ever since the last big scare about nine years ago.**  Nice to know preparedness paid off.

To wrap things up, Saturday we went walking along the Green River in Tukwila just east of SouthCenter, and it was a good-god-amighty moment seeing the submerged underpasses and flood level markers showing how high above sea level the water got at various places. We saw one that hit 26 feet, with a red mark to indicate flood level just over 31 feet. Too close for comfort. And seeing the river about three times its normal width due to having submerged so much of the banks on either side was deeply unsettling. And Algernon Blackwood was right: stands of willows do make a distinctive sound when half-submerged in racing floodwaters.

So, All Is Well. But I'd rather not come that close to having An Adventure, if it's all the same to the Powers That Be.

In the midst of all this I think the thing that amused Janice most was my response to the lights flickering. Facing the prospect that we might lose power and possibly spend a day or two sheltering in place, I made myself busy in the kitchen making up six thermoses*** and caraffs of hot tea to see us through.

--John R.
--current reading: a lot of old manga that's on its way out the door

*(I've never actually gotten a Phase One warning, which I assume is just an internal state of alert among the dam-minders)

**when the dam was compromised and they had to sandbag the levee for a year or so till they cd get the dam repaired

***thermosoi ?

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