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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The 100- year flood

This week is flood safety awareness week. It makes me think back to my senior year in high school. No, not to wish I was a senior once more, but because of the dikes that broke and flooded the town. My town was situated in a valley along the Snohomish River (the main drainage system for the central Cascade Mountain range).
When you are a senior in high school, you are pretty much focused on you, your friends, and if they are lucky, your family. You do not think about rain and dikes and rivers overflowing.

It rains a lot in Washington State. We were used to it. But it rained a lot in the fall of 1990 and it was warmer than usual, so snow was melting in the mountains.  And finally at the end of November, the Snohomish River couldn’t be contained and it ran over its banks and burst through more than 10 dikes.  
November 25, 1990 was a Sunday. My family lived way above town in a hilly community. We drove down into town for school and to visit some friends. My parents drove through town to get to work in a neighboring city. But as it was a Sunday, we were at home.  We didn’t know anything had happened until a neighbor stopped by and said that some dikes had broken and the valley was flooded. We jumped into the care to check it out.
Driving down Highway 9, all we saw was water in the valley, not the farm land and cows that we normally see. We drove as close as we could and then got out. My dad, mom, brother and I were completely silent as we stared at where the road disappeared into a flowing river. The signs along the side of the highway barely poked out above the water. The highway we used to get into town was under more than 6 feet of water.
It was bad. A couple of people lost their lives. Farms that butted up against the river were destroyed and many animals drowned. Houses and barns disappeared. Snohomish was flooded and completely cut off as it was located in the valley. You drive down to get into town from every direction.

 It took five days for the water to go down. We couldn’t go to school. My parents couldn’t go to work. What I still remember is what we could do. A shelter had been set up in our area and my parents took us to go volunteer. We served food to our displaced community members. My friends who lived in town on higher elevation took their neighbors into their homes. Many others helped with clean-up as the waters started to recede. I can say that most of my friends and classmates pitched in to help others that were in need that November.
The flood taught us that there is more to life than our own personal issues.  It taught us to help others who are in need. It taught us to be grateful for what we have. It taught us to cherish our loved ones. And that as long as they are safe, everything else will work out.

However, being students, when June rolled around, we did grumble about the mandatory make-up school days that cut into our summer. 
Learn more about flooding and the risks in your community by visiting


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