Snohomish County rivers flood dangerously close to where thousands of people live and work

Rising rivers and streams in Snohomish County are getting dangerously close to where thousands of people live and work.

Snohomish County is under a flood watch, focusing on the Skykomish, Stillaguamish and Snohomish Rivers. Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management said reports from National Weather Service indicate flood-prone areas could experience moderate to major flooding.

"What makes this event unique is it's both a significant amount of rainfall, but also a rapid warming trend. We got a big dumping of snow over the weekend," said Lucia Schmit, director of emergency management. "A lot of that snow that fell is going to melt rapidly and so that’s going to be coming down the rivers along with the new rainfall."

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Schmit said about 75,000 people live or work in flood-prone areas throughout the county. The director said the cities of Monroe and Snohomish should expect to see flooding from the Snohomish River.

"We absolutely do need to prepare for water over the roads," said Schmit.

The Snohomish County Hazard Viewer is a free online tool to help people better understand and manage hazards, like flooding, especially for those who live, work or travel through areas prone to flooding. The tool provides address-level searches to find interactive maps of flood plains.

Gagnon Welding 42 Inc. is located only a few feet from the edge of the Snohomish River.

"For us, we’re the lowest part of Snohomish on First Street," said owner Ryan Gagnon.

During a previous flood a few years ago, Gagnon said as much as four feet of water spilled into his business causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. That amount of flooding is not in the latest forecast, but Gagnon said there is still a risk. 

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"I’m not worried about my building floating away. I’m more concerned about our equipment and maybe that delay of our employees being out of work," said Gagnon. "Without the equipment, we don’t have a job."

Though Gagnon has flood insurance, he said it only covers his building. So, he and his team have a plan ready to protect most of their equipment inside.

"Our railing table will be cleared, and everything will be stacked up on that," said Gagnon. "We would load these toolboxes up in a truck and we’d get them above ground."

An emergency preparedness plan is something Schmit said more people should have ready, especially in flood-prone areas. Schmit said start the plan by knowing where higher ground is closest to the business or home.

"And then taking the time now to get together all of the important documents—passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, all of those things that are really difficult to replace, insurance documents. Gather all of those together along with food and clothing that you might need to take with you in a hurry and have that ready to go," said Schmit.

Schmit also advised families to discuss a communications plan as part of their emergency preparedness.

"If you’re out separated in different parts of the community, just know how you will get back in touch, how you will meet back up with your family. Having that basic communications plan is good to have for a variety of hazards," said Schmit.

Emergency management said this could be the first big flooding event of the season, which is typically November through March. More flooding information, including alerts, safety guides and maps are available on the Snohomish County Public Safety Hub website.