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Originally published December 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 5, 2007 at 4:28 PM

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Parts of Woodinville remain soggy mess

The power was off so it was dark. The carpeting made squishing sounds as people walked back and forth in inch-deep black mud covering the...

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

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What a storm!

The power was off so it was dark.

The carpeting made squishing sounds as people walked back and forth in inch-deep black mud covering the inside of the apartment.

Sitting together on a chair by a window in the weak December daylight Tuesday, a young couple looked around the apartment and smiled faintly when asked how long they'd lived there.

"A week," said Alicia Barney, 19. "It's our first apartment."

"All our clothes, a lot of our food, everything, it's gone," added Andrew Laudermilk, 21. Similar experiences were repeated all along the western edge of downtown Woodinville as the rain decreased and occasional sun revealed the extent of damage that had occurred in the city Monday.

Roads and a freeway were flooded, and dozens of residents and businesses found themselves buried in mud and water from one of the most severe rainstorms ever to hit the Puget Sound area.

In Bothell, much of the rising water had receded by Tuesday, with two streets remaining closed, a sharp drop from the nearly dozen roadways that were closed at the peak of Monday's flooding.

Much of the damage in Woodinville took place along the Sammamish River and Little Bear Creek, which flow through the city near the junctions of highways 522 and 202.

It was at apartments along the Sammamish River, many of them south of Wilmot Gateway Park, where some of the most damaging flooding took place.

"All I can do is just laugh," said JoAnn McGuire, sweeping mud out of her first-floor unit. "It's better than crying."

McGuire said she'd lived in the apartment complex for six years but had moved into the ground-floor unit only a year ago.

"I've lived in Woodinville since 1977, and I've never seen anything like this," she said.

Even clothing kept in upper dresser drawers and furnishings on top of cabinets ended up in the water, she said.

"Everything floated," she said, "and then tipped over."

At the Brittany Park retirement community across Northeast 171st Street from the flooded apartments, the 220 residents were into their second day without power, as flooding damaged electrical lines leading to the complex next to Woodinville City Hall.

"We're going to party," said Rebecca Clark, who's managed the complex since it opened 10 years ago. "We might as well. We can't work."

Residents were coping well, she said, and benefiting from outside temperatures in the 50s.

The complex has emergency generators, but not enough to power the entire complex, she said. Kitchen and emergency lighting worked, but units themselves were dark. An emergency refrigeration truck was brought in to save food supplies.

At McLendon Hardware a short distance away, Sandi Dietrich, lead cashier, was using a flashlight to work a cash register in the darkened building.

"We're helping our customers," she said. "We lead them back through the store with flashlights so they can find what they want."

The store was able to open after losing power Monday by using generators to run the registers, she said.

Several other businesses along Little Bear Creek, including Vinella, a fine-wines and specialty-beers shop, and Wood Mode, a custom-cabinetry shop, were closed, with locked doors.

Herbert Washburn, landlord for the Woodcreek Center business complex where Vinella and Wood Mode are located, was wearing black boots and using a broom to push mud away from office doors.

"This is the first time we've ever seen this," he said, in the 10 years his family has owned the complex.

The path of the water could clearly be seen at the complex, where two state Department of Transportation employees, who declined to give their names, said they were waiting for a crane to arrive from Everett to clear a culvert that normally carried Little Bear Creek west under an access ramp leading to Highway 522.

When the culvert was blocked by what the DOT workers described as an immense tree, about 6 feet in diameter, the creek was diverted to the south, along the concrete-block face of the access ramp, through the shopping center, over a retaining wall and eventually into the city's main intersection at Northeast 175th Street and 131st Avenue Northeast.

"This is an unprecedented event, at least in the city's history," said City Manager Rich Leahy. "None of the staff ever remember 522 being closed."

Other than the sheer volume of rain, just what made the problems so big is a puzzle, added Leahy.

"That's what we have to find out," he said. "Theoretically, the pipes were big enough to take care of it."

Other factors, such as increased upstream development over the past several years and the ground's being saturated by snow that fell before the Monday rains may all have contributed to the flooding this week, he added.

The city is supposed to start work next summer on a $3 million Bottleneck Relief Project that includes replacing an older culvert near Highway 522, he said.

The real problem, however, is the city's location, said Lane Youngblood, parks and recreation director, who oversaw shelter operations in the newly remodeled Carol Edwards Center, where 13 evacuated apartment dwellers spent the night Monday.

"All water leads to Woodinville," she said. "It is in a river valley."

In Bothell, road closures on 240th Street Southeast between 35th Avenue Southeast and Fitzgerald Road and on the North Creek Parkway North Bridge were causing some delays, but drivers were generally finding ways around the disruptions.

On the North Creek bridge, the main route into businesses in Bothell's technology corridor, city crews were routing drivers to one side of the bridge while the other side remained shut. City Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Allen said it was unknown when the routes would completely reopen.

On Tuesday, Bothell closed its Emergency Operations Center, which had opened in the police station Monday to coordinate volunteers who were placing sandbags and offering other kinds of relief.

About 40 to 50 volunteers were dispatched through the center, Allen said. Some 2,000 sandbags were placed throughout the city, including in the North Creek area, where the T-Mobile cellphone company hired a private sandbagging team to help control the waters. Other blockages continued along Highway 522 as the evening rush hour began Tuesday, with traffic backed up from about Northeast 195th Street to Interstate 405. Flooding had washed out a 60-foot-long section of the right-hand shoulder of Highway 522 east of the Highway 202 exit.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seattletimes.com.

Eastside reporter Meghan Peters contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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