Dike damaged after deluge from thunderstorms
By Ann McCreary
Thunderstorms last Friday (July 22) caused flash flooding in the French Creek area that partially destroyed a dike constructed last summer to protect properties from just that event.
Rusty and Nancy Jensen were digging out, for the second time in two years, from an onslaught of mud and debris that swept through their property about 6 miles up French Creek Road following what appears to have been a localized cloudburst.
“Inundated is too nice a word for it,” Rusty Jensen said this week. “We’ve got at least $4,000 – $5,000 of excavator work in order to remove mud, boulders and trees.”
Lorah Super, who lives near the Jensens on the west fork of French Creek, said a dike was constructed last summer through a program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to protect properties at risk from flooding following wildfire.
The area surrounding the properties was severely burned in the Carlton Complex Fire in July 2014. Within a month after the fire, thunderstorms brought down huge amounts of debris from the fire-scarred hillsides.
The rock dike installed last summer was about 800 feet long, 17 feet wide and 4 feet high, Super said. But it wasn’t enough to withstand the deluge produced by the morning storm on July 22.
“It was black and roaring with the sound of rolling boulders. It blew out the dike in two places,” she said.
She estimated about 125 yards of the dike were damaged by the flow, which filled a channel near her home that was dry before the storm.
The water and debris flowed through a shop and carport on the Jensen property, and carried with it a 50-foot long burned tree, Jensen said. It deposited about 6 inches of mud in a garage next the house.
“I don’t have a driveway any more. We just spent $4,000 last year graveling it and now it’s all gone. We got rid of flood insurance when they put the berm up, because we thought we were protected,” Jensen said.
“Engineers said the berm was made for 3 to 4 feet of water. It looks like we had 5 feet of water,” he said. “It’s Mother Nature. It’s a crapshoot.”
The dike is partly on Jensen’s property and partly on Super’s property. Super said engineers had come to evaluate the damage and determine if it can be repaired.
Jensen said part of the expense of the excavator work on his property would be to help rebuild the dike.
Another property below Jensens also had some flooding and mudslides, Super said. She said Russian Hill Road, not far from her property, had been flooded and French Creek had flowed over Burma Road.
Thunderstorms Monday evening (July 25) had not produced any reported flooding, said Maurice Goodall, Okanogan County emergency manager. The storms had dropped about .25 inch of precipitation in the Methow Valley from Twisp north, according to the National Weather Service.
Fire crews were scouting for potential lightning-caused fires after Monday’s thunderstorms. Lightning may have been the cause of a fire near Russian Hill about 3 miles up French Creek, although that had not been determined, according to Janet Pearce of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR crews responded to the fire Tuesday morning (July 26) with three engines and a helicopter. The fire reached about 2.5 acres and crews were monitoring it Tuesday evening.
The National Weather Service had issued flash flood warnings Tuesday night as more storm systems moved through the area.