Flooding in Seattle's South Park neighborhood forces families from homes

Flooding in Seattle's South Park neighborhood forced around 10 families from their homes Tuesday morning.

Though the floodwaters had mostly receded by Tuesday evening, many of those folks can't return to their homes due to water damage. Several families had to find hotel rooms or other shelter for the night. Residents say the water in some homes rose as high as their hips and also rose very quickly.

"I went outside towards where the door is, and I see water coming out from the door, like flooding, and I’m like, ‘This is horrible!’" said Reasmey Choun.

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Choun lives near S Chicago St and 8th Ave S, where several families were impacted. She woke up to a barrage of floodwater knocking at her door at around 8 am.

"The water was at least above to the ankle," said Choun.

She says the rushing water built up so much pressure, her mom couldn't even escape through the front door. 

"She opened the door and everything was pouring out, she couldn’t even push out the water to go out. It was just coming in super fast," said Choun. "My mom and my niece, they went through the window. We didn’t have anything, we just came out with our robes."

Choun says the water reached the armrest of her sofa. She says in her home alone, four adults, two children, her dog Mochi and cat are now displaced, and trying to find a place to stay. They weren't the only family devastated by flooding. Next door, a neighbor's basement was also severely flooded. She was accessing it on a pair of narrow boards, set up as a temporary foot bridge.

At nearby businesses, employees had to evacuate as well.

"Just an unfortunate chain of events. The rain, the ice we had last week, high tide, combined with the current construction work going on, just kind of made for the perfect storm, with all the ingredients coming together at the wrong time," said Kevin Clark, with the Rogers Machinery Company.

Clark says the water at his building rose within 6 minutes.

"This building hasn’t ever flooded to this magnitude in the last 31 years I've been here," said Clark.

"I’ve never seen it like this, the water levels like this. As high up as where the door knob is, that’s pretty bad," said Choun. 

The Duwamish River Community Coalition was helping residents with food and supplies early in the day. The executive director says ten families had to be relocated or needed assistance.

"Didn’t even have shoes. The neighbors actually gave me slippers to walk in right now. Everything is damaged; our furniture, our TV, everything," said Choun. 

Residents believe the flooding was in part due to high tides, and fear more are expected this week.

ALSO READ: 'All of our equipment started to float'; Tides, rainfall cause chaos in Snohomish County

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Seattle PUD issued a statement late Tuesday regarding the flooding: 

"At high tide this morning, the tidally influenced Duwamish River overtopped its banks and flooded numerous homes and businesses in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. Seattle Public Utilities crews and staff are in South Park to respond to the event and support impacted residents. At this time, the City is assessing needs including providing emergency housing as needed. 

"South Park does experience flooding and sewer backups. During high tides, the river may overtop its banks and South Park’s drainage system cannot drain into the Duwamish River. Heavy rains worsen drainage issues and can also cause combined sewer capacity challenges (sewer backups).

"South Park is a frontline community for Climate Change. Today’s flooding was caused by the Duwamish River overtopping its banks. Unfortunately, this is expected to happen more frequently as part of sea level rise—as are increased heavy rains. As a City, we are working to prioritize the needs of frontline communities as we adapt to new extremes in the water cycle. 

"Seattle Public Utilities is investing in South Park. This year, to help address immediate challenges, we installed sewer protection equipment in homes that experienced sewer backups last year and hired a community-based non-profit to help provide urgent on-the-ground support. 

"Our flooding related investments include construction of the South Park Pump Station (8th Ave S and S Riverside). Other SPU drainage related projects in South Park include green stormwater infrastructure at Cloverdale and 5th, and the South Park Drainage and Roadway Partnership with SDOT (between 2nd Ave S and 8th Ave S, and S Holden St and S Monroe St) which will also be completed in 2023. 

"Being prepared for emergencies is important. If you experience flooding, please make sure people and pets are safe. If it is a life-threatening emergency, please call 911. For urgent but not life-threatening flooding, please call SPU’s 24/7 Operations Response Center at (206) 386-1800."