Flood Central: Rivers Have Crested Across Basin


11:18 a.m. Update: Man Missing After Driving Into Flood Waters in Grays Harbor County

A 39-year-old Aberdeen man is missing after his vehicle became disabled when he reportedly drove into floodwaters on Porter Creek Road west of Elma late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. 

According to the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were advised of the situation at 3:19 a.m. Sunday. Porter Creek Road was closed at the time of the incident. 

“The reporting party advised he got a call from his friend who said that he drove his truck into the floodwaters on Porter Creek Road West and became disabled,” Undersheriff Brad Johansson said in a news release. “He asked his friend to come tow his vehicle from the location. When the friend arrived at approximately 2:30 a.m., he walked to the vehicle and the Aberdeen male was not in the vehicle.  The water was swift in the area of the disabled vehicle and the reporting party advised he was nearly swept off the roadway going to and from the disabled vehicle.”

Deputies arrived at 3:36 a.m. but were unable to launch a boat due to darkness and the extremely dangerous water conditions, according to the news release.  

The Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office requested assistance from the Thurston County Swift Water Rescue Team, which determined it was not safe to enter the water until daylight hours.   

The sheriff's office also requested assistance from the Pacific County Sheriff's Office to search the area with a drone that is equipped with thermal imaging.   

“The area was searched with the drone and they did not locate the missing person,” according to the news release.

“It is uncertain if the missing person was swept away in the floodwaters or possibly walked out on his own and obtained other transportation,” the sheriff’s office wrote. “The Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office wants to remind people do not drive on closed roads. Driving in floodwaters is dangerous and should be avoided.”

9:30 a.m. Sunday Update: Red Cross Recruiting Volunteers To Help With Flood Response

By The Chronicle staff 

The American Red Cross is actively seeking volunteers in Lewis, Thurston and Grays Harbor counties to help with ongoing disaster response and sheltering as flooding continues to affect the region. 

“The impact of flooding in the region continues to grow, and we anticipate additional shifts and services required to support the region,” stated the Red Cross in a news release. “Members of the local community can help and we have created a volunteer portal to streamline the application process.” 

The volunteer portal is accessible online at volunteerconnection.redcross.org/?nd=intake&entry_point_id=26&entry_point_type=global_entry_point

This opportunity is specific to individuals who live in or near impacted counties, stated the Red Cross. 

At this time, event based volunteers (EBVs) are not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but a pre-assignment health questionnaire that includes COVID-19 screening questions must be completed and masks must be worn during the assignment. 

As of Sunday morning, the Red Cross needed volunteers to help with shelter support and emergency supply distribution in Chehalis and warehouse support in Tacoma. 

More volunteer opportunities will be posted in the days ahead, stated the Red Cross. 

For more information about the Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook @RedCrossNW.   

9:30 a.m. Sunday Update: Pet Supply Drops Available Sunday in Tenino and Rochester

By The Chronicle staff 

Pet owners affected by the flooding in Lewis and South Thurston counties can pick up food and supplies in Tenino and Rochester between noon and 2 p.m. on Sunday. 

The supply drops are organized by Concern for Animals, an Olympia-based nonprofit that runs a pet food bank and veterinary cost assistance program to help animals in need. 

“Many members of our community have been evacuated from their homes and did not have time to adequately prepare with their pets,” said Outreach and Development Coordinator Celia Hyde. 

The supply drops are located at Tenino Ace Hardware/Tenino Market Fresh, 669 Lincoln Ave. E., and Rochester True Value Hardware and Lumber, 19523 Sargent Road SW, in Rochester. 

More information on each event can be found on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/events/301637645255940/?ref=newsfeed and www.facebook.com/events/650684932635555?ref=newsfeed

More supply drops will likely be organized in the coming weeks, Hyde said.

“We may also be able to provide supplies for animal rescues, large animals/farm animals, and help with obtaining veterinary assistance for animals injured during the flooding,” stated the release.

5:30 p.m. Update: Emergency Shelter Will Move To Lewis County Fairgrounds Sunday 

By The Chronicle staff 

A Red Cross emergency shelter remained open at Centralia Middle School for flood victims Saturday night, but the shelter will move to the 4-H building on the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds on Sunday so the Centralia School District can resume normal school operations, stated the county in a news release. 

Individuals needing shelter from the flooding can still go to Centralia Middle School on Saturday. 

The transition to the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds, located at 1909 S. Gold St. in Centralia, will happen mid-morning on Sunday, according to the county. 

Those seeking shelter with animals — pets, not livestock — can bring them to the shelter Saturday evening, or after that transition to the fairgrounds on Sunday. There is a safe location outside the 4-H building to put people’s pets, as they are not allowed inside the shelter. It is the owner of the animals’ responsibility to care for and monitor their animal, stated the county.

The county will make another announcement when the shelter changes locations.

There are still about 52 individuals utilizing the shelter, including close to a half-dozen residents from Grand Mound who left their homes Saturday, said Ross McDowell, deputy director of Lewis County Emergency Management.

5:20 p.m. Update: County Plans for Flood Damage Assessment As Rivers Start Receding 

The rivers in Lewis County have crested and officials have turned their sights toward damage assessment. 

Lewis County has set up 360-740-2600 as a damage reporting line for people to report flood damage. People are asked to leave a message with their name, address, email and a callback phone number to report any flood damage. 

The Department of Emergency Management is also developing a website that will have the necessary forms to be filled out to complete the initial damage reporting process. Further details will be communicated once that site is live, stated the county in a news release.

Most rivers fell below where they were forecasted to crest, said the county, but the Chehalis River at Centralia did crest slightly above projected levels. As of 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Chehalis River had dropped into the minor flood stage at 169.75 feet, according to the National Weather Service. 

While many areas in Lewis and South Thurston counties are still impassable due to flood waters, law enforcement and Public Works have seen an improvement since yesterday, said Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza. 

“It seems the waters in the county … it’s doing well,” said Snaza.” We still have some issues with Brim Road and a couple other roads … but we’re still working with Public Works on those grounds.” 

Motorists are again reminded not to drive through water and not to go around road closure signs. 

“We're going to cite you if you go beyond the barricades, because it makes it a hazard for all of us, including the individuals but also for the first responders responding to rescue you,” said Snaza. 

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s Swift Water Rescue Team has conducted two rescue operations on Twin Oaks Road since it was closed between milepost 1.2 and state Route 603 at 7:45 a.m. on Friday, said Snaza. 

“I know people don’t like the roads closed but at the same time, (it’s) their safety, and so we’re just encouraging people, if it says ‘road closed,’ please just turn around,” he said. 

Anyone with questions about a road closure is encouraged to call Public Works at 360-740-1123 

or the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 360-748-9286.

 “We’ll try and get you in the right direction,” said Snaza. 

Go to roads.lewiscountywa.gov for up to date county road restrictions. 

– Emily Fitzgerald/emily@chronline.com

9 a.m. Update: Saturday Morning Flood Update: Rivers Have Crested Across Basin

By Isabel Vander Stoep / isabel@chronline.com

Flood waters in the Chehalis Basin are receding this Saturday morning. 

Basinwide flooding caused disruption in the lives of West Lewis County residents on Thursday and Friday, reaching businesses and homes, covering farmlands and closing roads, including Interstate 5 for a few hours. 

Late Thursday night, the Newaukum River in Chehalis topped its all-time record that was first set in 1996. Near the same time, China Creek in Centralia overtopped its banks and entered into homes and businesses in the downtown area. 

By Friday morning, the creek had receded and attention was turned to the Skookumchuck River, which ended up just .01 foot under its 1996 record in the Thurston County town of Bucoda.

Though Thursday’s forecast showed the Skookumchuck rising to 2 feet above its 1996 record, the river at Centralia ended up cresting just high enough to put it into the National Weather Service’s (NWS) “moderate flooding” category, by only .18 foot. 

That’s definitely good news for the many Centralia residents who evacuated their homes after Lewis County entered a state of emergency on Thursday afternoon. 

However, the river has still entered homes and businesses, and the aftermath of the flood is still yet to be fully realized. Volunteer flood relief efforts are already being organized by United Way of Lewis County, and willing volunteers can join those by visiting www.lewiscountyuw.com.

This Saturday morning, the Newaukum at Chehalis had receded all the way below the minor flooding category, and the Skookumchuck at Centralia was hovering just above the minor category as of 8:30 a.m.

The Chehalis River at Centralia crested at about 11 p.m. on Friday, and by Saturday morning was forecast to recede quickly, reaching back into minor flooding by early Sunday morning. 

The Chehalis at Grand Mound, as of 8:30 a.m., appeared to be cresting, but it was doing so well into the major flooding category. 

According to NWS, the river there set its all-time record during the 2007 flood. It reached just under 2 feet of that record around 1 a.m. on Saturday morning, and was not forecast to dip below the major category until early Sunday. 

9:45 p.m. Update: ‘We Are Very, Very Fortunate’: Worst Case Scenario Doesn’t Play Out, Though Major Flooding Continues on Chehalis River

By Eric Rosane / ericr@chronline.com

It was perhaps the hardest-hitting flood in well over a decade for the Chehalis Basin.

Lowland snow melted away after a warm and concentrated atmospheric river fell on the region Thursday, sending many rivers and other waterways into historic or substantial flooding, leading to the displacement of hundreds around the Twin Cities and closing a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Chehalis for about four hours Friday.

The Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers bore the brunt of the impact this week, feeding debris and ice-cold water into the Chehalis River and triggering major flooding in the Grand Mound area.

Flooding inundated roadways in Centralia and Chehalis early Thursday morning, and streets remained overwhelmed by Friday afternoon press deadline.

The Skookumchuck River rose drastically early Friday morning in both Bucoda and Centralia, while the Chehalis River at Centralia and Grand Mound had yet to peak as of Friday afternoon.

The Chehalis River at Grand Mound on Friday entered “major flooding” designation and is forecasted to crest Saturday morning two feet below its 2007 record. West Thurston Fire Authority on Thursday was busy conducting rescues.

The Newaukum River at Chehalis crested midday Thursday at a record level, reaching 205.59 feet. The previous record was 205.5 feet set in 1996.

Water from China Creek was still inundating downtown Centralia businesses and homes as of Friday, though it had receded greatly.

Riverside Nursing and Rehab, which lies along the Skookumchuck River in Centralia, evacuated 52 elderly residents late Thursday night to other homes and locations. The Centralia Police Department was still working with the Riverside Fire Authority to evacuate Centralia residents out of houses and hotel rooms that were inundated with water.

School districts in Centralia, Chehalis, Morton, Toledo, Pe Ell and others altered schedules on Thursday, with most of them cancelling class on Friday.

The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Quinault Indian Nation also responded to flooding hazards.

A shelter organized by Lewis County and the Red Cross was set up late Thursday night at Centralia Middle School. Between 40 and 50 people were at the shelter by late Friday morning.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we are not going to have the extreme severity that was predicted. Obviously, we still have folks who have been inundated with flood water and we have had people use our shelters,” said Lewis County Commissioner Lindsey Pollock. “We are thankful that it appears not as bad as it could have been.”

But residents should continue to remain aware, even as flood waters recede, Pollock said, because “every flood is different.” Drivers should not travel through high street water. 

Pollock said Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler’s office was in contact and “on standby and ready to help as we are needing more information from our federal partners.”

At a last-minute meeting held Thursday afternoon, Lewis County commissioners declared a state of emergency to free up state and federal resources. More than 40 county roadways were impacted by rising waters later that day.

Though flood waters crept close to historic levels observed in 1996, 2006, 2007 and 2009 — aside from the Newaukum River at Chehalis, there was no damage on the scale of those massive disasters.

J. Vander Stoep, a Chehalis Basin Board member, said that is likely because the main stem of the Chehalis River was considerably lower this time around — by about 3 to 5 feet.

“I know there are people being damaged now on the Skookumchuck and on the Newaukum, and obviously anybody who gets flooded is a concern to our community, but the difference between that and the damages from the ‘07 and ‘96 flood is very dramatic in terms of the scope,” Vander Stoep said. “The main stem of the Chehalis River is the door for every tributary … For now, it looks like that door will continue to stay open and allow for those tributaries to flow out.”

Combined riverflow on both the Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers even during peak tides couldn’t scale up to even half of the 52,000 cubic feet of water the Chehalis River mainstem discharged back in 2007, Vander Stoep said. 

“That doesn’t account for the south fork,” he said, adding “we are very, very fortunate.”

It will likely take days — perhaps multiple weeks — to truly understand the economic toll this most recent flood had on Chehalis Basin residents. Waters were expected to begin receding Friday afternoon, a National Weather Service meteorologist told The Chronicle.

David Curtis, senior vice president of WEST Consultants, which has managed the Chehalis Basin’s early warning systems since 2010, said this flood was a concentrated event that shouldn’t be downplayed.

“The forecasted rain amounts weren’t all that scary. However, there was a significant amount of snow on the ground even at low elevations. And you had warming temperatures, and rain, all of that on top of saturated soils … When you put all those factors together, then you have the ingredients for a major event,” he said.

The river gauge at Doty, which lies along the mainstem of the Chehalis River, east of the city of Chehalis, never rose above “minor flooding” designation. If it had, damage to businesses and homes might have been more severe and the threat to life could have been higher.

“So, even though the Doty gauge and that part of the basin wasn’t a big contributor, there was still enough water coming in from other tributaries to flood the Grand Mound area,” Curtis said.

People along the river were also more prepared this time around, too. Curtis said the National Weather Service hit their forecasts right on the mark and were able to accurately predict river flows three days in advance.

“This is a reflection of the evolution of the science in weather forecasting and the development and our understanding of these atmospheric river events,” he said.

The Twin Cities will remain in a flood warning through Saturday night. Rain will continue through the weekend, according to NWS Seattle, though rainfall Saturday is only expected to bring a tenth of an inch.


8:20 p.m. Update: United Way Begins Organizing Flood Relief Volunteer Efforts With City of Centralia

As local emergency flood response efforts continue in parts of Lewis County, United Way of Lewis County, in partnership with the City of Centralia, is beginning to coordinate future flood relief volunteer efforts once emergent needs subside over the next few days.

“United Way of Lewis County has a strong history of assisting the community in times of crisis,” said Christian Bruhn, executive director for United Way of Lewis County, in a news release.

“We have been in close contact with city and county officials over the last 24 hours to assess the needs of those affected by the recent flooding. We have determined that we will be able to best help with the recovery efforts through coordinating volunteers and initiating fundraising campaigns. We are unsure on the extent of the work at this time but are preparing to mobilize as needed.”

The nonprofit is currently building a list of people who are interested in volunteering as needs arise. Anyone interested in lending a hand is encouraged to visit the United Way of Lewis County website at www.lewiscountyuw.com to be placed on the flood relief volunteer list. 

For those who do not have access to a computer, call United Way at 360-748-8100 to sign up.  City of Centralia Councilors are also assisting in gathering names of anyone interested in volunteering for this effort. 

For more information, follow the United Way of Lewis County Facebook page.

Noel Avenue floods in Centralia Friday night.
Noel Avenue floods in Centralia Friday night.

6:15 p.m. Friday: Chehalis River at Centralia Forecast to Crest at 1 a.m. Saturday

The Chehalis River at Centralia was still rising into the late evening on Friday, creeping up to just under the height where it would classify as “major flooding,” according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

An NWS meteorologist told The Chronicle at about noon Friday the river would see its crest late in the day. It’s looking like it will instead see the peak flow at Centralia at around 1 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Between Thursday night and Friday morning, the Newaukum River at Chehalis topped its record height first set in 1996 and the Skookumchuck at Bucoda came up to just under its all-time high. That enormous amount of water from those tributaries still spilling into the Chehalis is likely what’s causing the delay in its crest. 

When it reaches the crest, the river is forecast to remain just under major flooding at 175.16 feet. It qualifies as major when it reaches 175.5 feet. 

The river has inundated state Route 6, Airport, Tune and Shorey Roads and parts of state Route 603 as well as others. 

Folks on Brockway and Scheuber Roads would have to risk driving through water to get most anywhere until Saturday afternoon. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office has recommended sheltering in place when possible for residents across the Twin Cities. 

For more information on road closures, visit https://roads.lewiscountywa.gov/.


— Isabel Vander Stoep, isabel@chronline.com

4:20 p.m. Friday: National Guard Activated to Help Flood Relief Efforts 

The Washington National Guard has deployed from Seattle to help out at sandbagging stations in areas affected by flooding on Friday. 

A formal request for National Guard aid was filed Friday morning, said State Public Affairs Officer Joseph Siemandel, and three groups departed from Camp Murray near Tacoma on Friday, with the last group leaving for Lewis County at noon, for a total of 16 people arriving to help with issues related to flooding, said Siemandel. 

“These guys have been busy, especially with COVID … and now its been the snow up north and supporting the flooding down here,” said Siemandel.

The primary area National Guard members were asked to help with was sandbagging, said Siemandel. One of the three groups was stationed at the sandbagging station in downtown Centralia Friday afternoon to help volunteers bag and load sandbags. 

The National Guard will remain in South Thurston and Lewis counties to help with flooding as long as it's needed, Siemandel said. 

Members of the Washington National Guard help fill sandbags at the Centralia sandbag station Friday afternoon.
Members of the Washington National Guard help fill sandbags at the Centralia sandbag station Friday afternoon.

– Emily Fitzgerald/emily@chronline.com

1 p.m.: I-5 Reopens As Flood Waters Recede 

All lanes of Interstate 5 have reopened, the Washington state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced at 1 p.m. on Friday. The exit ramp at southbound Exit 77 remains closed.

“Flood waters receded faster than expected,”  WSDOT tweeted. 

Visit WSDOT’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/wsdot for updates on I-5. 

Many roads in Lewis County remain closed due to flooding. Visit https://roads.lewiscountywa.gov/ for a complete list.

1 p.m.: Centralia Police Continue Working to Evacuate Flooded Residents, Divert Traffic  

The Centralia Police Department is working with Riverside Fire Authority to evacuate Centralia residents out of houses and hotel rooms that are currently inundated or about to be inundated with water. 

Officers and firefighters are using high rescue vehicles to get people out of danger and to either the Red Cross shelter at Centralia Middle School or to another safe place to meet up with family. 

“We just get them out of that location. And if they need to go into shelter, we take them there, or to their family, whatever their needs are,” said Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham. 

The biggest problems Centralia police officers are currently facing, Denham said, is traffic. People choosing to drive around road closure barricades is a major safety concern, Denham said, as officers can’t monitor every barricade to prevent people from driving into high water. 

“The danger of doing that can be pretty severe,” he said.

12:30 p.m. Update: Skookumchuck Cresting Near ‘Moderate’ Stage; Forecast to Improve in Afternoon

Though the forecast on Thursday correctly predicted Friday to be the worst day of the flooding across West Lewis County, it thankfully missed the mark on its prediction for the height of the Skookumchuck River at Centralia.

At about noon on Friday, Mary Butwin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) said: “Looking at the height of it right now (the Skookumchuck at Centralia) does seem to be cresting at the moment.”

After it crests, flood waters from the Skookumchuck should start to recede later this afternoon.

Currently, the river is at 189.97 feet, just .03 feet below the stage where it is considered to be “moderate flooding,” according to NWS. 

Though there is never certainty with floods and rain, this means the river will be well under its record-high in Centralia, which was set in 1996 at 191 feet. Yesterday, it was forecast to rise 2 whole feet above that record. So, this is good news, but not yet time to count unhatched chickens. NWS will continue to monitor the river closely. 

Of course, there’s still the Chehalis River.

“The Chehalis at Centralia should be cresting shortly but it has not yet, probably will in the next few hours here. Right now it’s forecasted to crest probably this afternoon or early evening at the latest,” Butwin said.

Right now, the Chehalis is out of its banks, covering parts of state Route 6, Airport Road and inundating farmlands. The Chehalis has already crested farther upstream including at Doty and Adna. It is not forecast to reach its crest at Grand Mound until noon on Saturday, where it is already entering the “major flood stage,” according to NWS. It is not set to break the all time record there set in 2007.

Butwin also said there may be some more rain showers throughout the day, but nothing major.

— Isabel Vander Stoep, isabel@chronline.com

The Skookumchuck River floods in north Centralia Friday afternoon.
The Skookumchuck River floods in north Centralia Friday afternoon.

12:10 p.m. Update: Northbound I-5 Reopens at Exit 79 

Interstate 5 is now open northbound at Exit 79, but remains closed northbound from Exit 68 up to Exit 79. 

I-5 southbound still remains closed from Exit 88 to Exit 68.

The Washington state Department of Transportation has no alternate routes to get around the I-5 closure at this time.

11:20 a.m. Update: Don’t Drive Through Flood Water, Lewis County Officials Remind Motorists 

If you encounter water on the roadway, turn around — don’t drive through it.

That’s Lewis County’s message for motorists trying to navigate the county’s roadways as the Skookumchuck and Chehalis rivers continue to rise and areas around the Newaukum River remain flooded on Friday. 

“People are still trying to drive through water, we take any chance that we can to advise them not to do that, not only just because they don't know how deep it is, but also, (you) don't know what the road is looking like under there,” said county spokesperson Austin Majors. “You're putting yourself in a lot of risk to do it, but then also the first responders to have to come out and help people too. So any messaging that we can get out about not driving through the water, and especially don't go around any road closures.” 

Interstate 5 remains closed between Exit 68 and Exit 88 until further notice. A large gravel lot at Ritchie Bros off of Exit 68 is open to for semi-trucks traveling on I-5 to park and wait out the closure, Majors said. 

The Newaukum River appeared to be receding as of 10 a.m. on Friday, but most of the surrounding area is still flooded. 

“There’s obviously a massive amount of water everywhere out there, but that one’s the most optimistic compared to the other two,” said Majors. 

Lewis County Emergency Management is continuing to monitor the levels of all three rivers and updating road closures at https://roads.lewiscountywa.gov/. 

A vehicle is seen stranded on Airport Road in Centralia early Friday.
A vehicle is seen stranded on Airport Road in Centralia early Friday.

– Emily Fitzgerald/emily@chronline.com

11:15 a.m. Update: Bucoda Recovering After Near-Record Overnight Flooding

Bucoda residents awoke Friday morning to Skookumchuck River floodwaters inundating their roadways, though emergency operation center operators, fire staff and volunteers were waiting for sunlight to assess the damage. 

James Fowler, the Bucoda Fire Department chief, said it’s likely the river crested about 4 a.m. Friday at 215.9 feet -- just 0.1 feet below the 1996 records, though time will tell if this year’s flood was a record or not. 

“It is, from historical data I know, as bad as the ‘96 flood. It's not as bad as the 2007 flood. It is as bad as the 2007 flood as far as the water height, but I believe more people have been prepared this year than they have in year's past," Fowler said. 

Roadways east of Nenant Street were overwhelmed with water, anywhere from 8 to 10 inches, while areas south of 8th Street likely had upwards of 4 feet, Fowler said. Volunteers have been able to wade through shin-high water, though. It’s not yet clear how many houses have sustained flood damage. 

Many residents in the Thurston County town of 668 people are riding out the storm from their homes, Fowler said, or they’ve left town to go stay with friends or relatives. 

The Bucoda Fire Department rescued one person Friday morning from his Ford pickup truck after attempting to drive through high waters. 

The Skookumchuck River at Bucoda was the first location in the Chehalis Basin to reach “major flood” designation when it surpassed 215 feet. The Chehalis River at Grand Mound and the Skookumchuck at Centralia are forecast to enter into “major flooding” later this morning. The Newaukum River’s flood waters at Chehalis were beginning to recede Friday morning after briefly cresting into “major flood” designation.

A home in Bucoda is seen surrounded by water Friday morning.
A home in Bucoda is seen surrounded by water Friday morning.

10:20 a.m. Update: Most Recent River Forecasts for Newaukum, Chehalis and Skookumchuck Rivers

9:15 a.m. Update: Sheriff’s Office Encourages Twin Cities Residents to Shelter In Place If Possible as High Water Closes Roadways 

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging people to hold in place as flood waters continue to close roads around the Twin Cities on Friday.  

“We’re trying to go to only the emergency-in-progress calls and want to encourage people to stay home, stay in place until we get through this,” said Sheriff Rob Snaza in a phone call with a reporter at 8:45 a.m. on Friday. 

All roads going into northern Lewis County are closed, Snaza said, as the Skookumchuck River at Bucoda is at major flood stage. 

The Sheriff’s Office met with county officials Friday morning to discuss current road closures and develop a plan for diverting traffic. 

“We're gonna have to deal with a lot of the traffic going on. And what do we do with the residual traffic? And how do we get them out of the area so we can clear it out?” said Snaza. 

Deputies were out with Public Works Department employees throughout the day yesterday handling road closures and diverting traffic away from the high waters, in addition to handling the Sheriff’s Office’s regular call volume, Snaza said. 

“As the water recedes, we're going to be working on opening up roads that were currently closed. Problem is no matter what, the roads are going to be closed northbound for an extended period of time. That's our problem,” said Snaza, adding “ … But the Sheriff's Office is fully prepared to address any issues that come up. The good part is that we are having no issues in the east county. So we're able to pull attention to what's going on in the Centralia, Chehalis area and surrounding county.”

With the Chehalis River expected to continue rising through Friday, Snaza said he expects many of the roads in downtown Centralia to close. 

The Sheriff’s Office’s five-person Swiftwater Rescue Team is on standby — and rescued two people around 10 p.m. on Thursday after their vehicle became stuck in high water in the 100 block of White Road near state Route 6. 

If you’re in need of a rescue or evacuation and it’s a non-life threatening situation, call 360-740-1105. If it is a life-threatening situation, call 911. 

To report road issues, call 360-740-1123. 

Current road restrictions can be found here: https://roads.lewiscountywa.gov/

It is not safe to drive through water on the roadways. Turn around, don’t drown.

Do not try to remove downed trees. The ground is unstable and more trees could fall.

8:20 a.m. Update: Portion of Interstate 5, Highway 6 Closes in Lewis County

The Washington State Department of Transportation issued a closure of Interstate 5 from exit 68 at Highway 12 to exit 88 at Ground Mound.

Highway 6 is also closed from milepost 6 to milepost 48 near Twin Oaks, stated a news release.

“Accumulation of water on or over the roadways makes driving too dangerous or impossible in these areas,” stated the release.

Detours for I-5 are being discussed. The department of transportation will provide an update on detour routes once they are available. There are no detour plans for Highway 6 at this time. 

“If you do not have to drive, stay home,” stated the release.

6:20 a.m. Update: A Look at Bucoda as the Skookumchuck River Approaches an All-Time High

5:25 a.m. Update: A Look at Updated River Forecasts 

  • The Newaukum River at Chehalis appears to have crested at a record 205.59 feet and is projected to begin receding. 
  • The Skookumchuck River at Centralia is still predicted to shatter the all-time record of 191 feet and reach up to 192.94 feet by 10 p.m. Friday. The high-water mark has been delayed in recent forecasts. The river could break the record of 191 feet by 10 a.m., according to the forecast. 
  • The Skookumchuck River at Bucoda is at major flood stage this morning. It is expected to crest above the all-time high of 216 feet today. 
  • The Chehalis River at Centralia is expected to rise throughout the day before cresting Saturday in moderate flooding range at 172.55 feet. 
  • The Chehalis River at Grand Mound is still forecast to reach major flood stage today into Saturday and crest at 145.39 feet. The record is 147.3 feet. 

Check for updates on river levels here: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=sew&gage=cgmw1

10:50 p.m. Update: ​​The Newaukum River Has Officially Set a Flooding Record

10 p.m. Update: City of Centralia Activates Emergency Operations Center

From the City of Centralia: The Centralia Police Department and Riverside Fire Authority activated its Emergency Operations Center for the City of Centralia at 8 p.m. and will remain active for the duration of the event.

People in Centralia should be monitoring the threat of flooding to their home or location. Prepare and take precautions now. River level forecasts for the Skookumchuck show major flooding imminent.  

If you feel evacuation is needed for yourself or your family, it is better to do it voluntarily rather than waiting for evacuation mandates.

There is a shelter located at Centralia Middle School, at 901 Johnson Rd., in Centralia, for those that need it. Those people seeking shelter with animals, pets not livestock, can bring them to the shelter. There is a safe location outside to put your pet, as they are not allowed inside the shelter. It is the owner of the animals’ responsibility to care for and monitor their animal.

9:45 p.m. Update: WSDOT Announces On and Off Ramps at Interstate 5 Exit 72 Are Closed

9:30 p.m. Update:  China Creek Flooding Downtown Could Be Sustained Over Weekend as Heavy Rain Continues, Public Works Director Says

By Eric Rosane / ericr@chronline.com 

Jim Hoerling, 71, has seen it time and time again. 

“It’s typical when it rains too much, after you’ve had a pretty good snow,” said the longtime Centralia resident. “And it’s just one of those things. Seen it quite a few times — you just watch the water come up and then it goes down.” 

The “it” in question was flooding on China Creek. 

Thursday morning and well into the afternoon, the creek swelled in size and inundated downtown roads, sidewalks and parts of the historic Edison District. Sandbags were stacked outside local businesses and city hall. It was the first blow in what’s predicted to be a weekend of historic flooding. 

From the sidewalk near his house along Pine Street, Hoerling spent Thursday afternoon watching as vehicle after vehicle drove through 3-feet deep water at the intersection of Pine and Iron streets. 

How many vehicles, specifically, did he see? 

“Way too many. I’ve seen a lot of 4-by-4s seeing how high they can spray the water. Seen a commercial bus go through pushing water at the bumper. It’s very interesting and somewhat entertaining, but then disgusting to a lot of people because you shouldn’t be out here messing in the water anyways,” Hoerling said, perched underneath his blue and white umbrella. 

Hoerling said he’s not too worried about flooding this year on his property and the nearby mortuary with his namesake, though he knows there are some neighbors who may be in dire straits this weekend. 

It’s likely China Creek will see sustained flooding throughout the weekend as additional rainfall — including up to 5 inches between Thursday and Friday in the Twin Cities — inundates the area. 

“We’re just preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” said City of Centralia Public Works director Kim Ashmore. “Right now, if I’m looking at 5 inches in the next 24 hours … Yeah, we’re going to get more additional flooding. How does that compare with other floods? I’m not sure.”

But Ashmore said he hopes there’s less rainfall in the coming days so that China Creek water downtown can begin to recede. 

The middle stretch of China Creek that leads into downtown is currently in the final stages of being re-engineered by the City of Centralia to reduce flooding downtown. These phase 2 improvements created a flood control area, carved flow basins, re-engineered ponds and saw log jams installed; phase 1 focused on efforts upstream near Little Hanaford Road. 

The city originally aimed to have the improvements done in time for the flood season, but challenges have delayed the finished product. 

Ashmore said they’re still waiting on a delivery of steel for a flow control weir that will flow the water into downtown, as well as many fiberglass stop logs. With eight weeks of installation work, Phase 2 could be finished as soon as late March. 

Despite its incomplete nature, Ashmore said the two projects are producing positive results on China Creek. Water is being held back from inundating downtown, he said. Without the improvements, water downtown Thursday might have been several inches higher than it was. 

“I was impressed by how much water was being stored with that stop log structure not being complete,” he said. “But I’ve also been impressed how it hasn’t stopped raining since 10 o’clock last night.” 

7:40  p.m. Update:  Predictions Remain on Target for Record Flooding on Skookumchuck, Newaukum

Follow updates on river predictions:  https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/forecasts.php?wfo=sew

6:05 p.m. Update: Flooding Shelter Available Now at Centralia Middle School

For anyone needing shelter from the flooding, one is now set up and available at the Centralia Middle School, located at 901 Johnson Road in Centralia. 

Lewis County staff along with the Red Cross are on site and coordinating the shelter efforts.

Cots, blankets and refreshments are available.

Animal sheltering information will be provided on the Lewis County Emergency Management website once details are finalized. https://lewiscountywa.gov/departments/emergency-management/

You can also follow the Lewis County Emergency Management Facebook page for more updates related to flooding, shelters, sandbags, and more here: https://www.facebook.com/Lewis-County-Emergency-Management-110573714616339

5 p.m. Update: Important Flooding Phone Numbers From Lewis County

Here are important phone numbers to have during this flooding event:

For rescue/evacuation:

If non-life threatening: 360-740-1105

If life threatening: 911

For reporting road issues:


Current road restrictions can be found here: https://roads.lewiscountywa.gov/

It is not safe to drive through water on the roadways. Turn around, don’t drown.

Do not try to remove downed trees. The ground is unstable and more trees could fall.

Lewis County Emergency Management


More information will be added to the Lewis County Emergency Management website and Facebook page about shelter location and information once available. 

Website: https://lewiscountywa.gov/departments/emergency-management/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lewis-County-Emergency-Management-110573714616339

4: 20 p.m. Update: Lewis County Declares State of Emergency as Upwards of 5 Inches of Rainfall Expected Over Next 24 Hours

Lewis County commissioners passed a local declaration of emergency Thursday afternoon during an emergency meeting in preparation for historic flooding along the Skookumchuck, Newaukum and Chehalis rivers. 

Ross McDowell, deputy director with Lewis County Emergency Management, said the Twin Cities are forecasted to receive upwards of 5 inches over the next 24 hours, likely to further inundate already-flooded roadways, streets and homes near the rivers. 

“But that does not take into effect the snow drainage and the snow that’s melting off with this heavy rain due to the fact that it’s almost 50 degrees out here in Lewis County,” McDowell told commissioners. 

Fearing rising waters in the dead of night, county staff and officials urged residents, if they hadn’t already, to take action and evacuate homes if flooding was anticipated. Lewis County is currently in a Phase 2 Emergency Operations Center. 

Speaking to The Chronicle, Lewis County Board of Commissioners Chair Lindsey Pollock said people should remain aware of their surroundings, make sure they know what parts of their property flood and what routes they can use to safely evacuate, and to expect the unexpected. 

“Every flood is different. I think that’s the important thing to remember,” she said.

“There’s significant localized flooding everywhere throughout the west part of the county at this time,” said Public Works Director Josh Metcalf. “All the tributaries feeding into the rivers are all running full, there’s lots of degree in them as well. And, at this point in time, I think our count is over 40 roads that have water over them in a manner of either restricted or closed.” 

In collaboration with the Red Cross, Lewis County plans on opening up an emergency shelter at Centralia Middle School at 6 p.m. A walkthrough was set for 5 p.m. in order to confirm that location, McDowell said.

More information will be published when the emergency shelter opens.  

“We have been in contact with WSDOT. There’s been a closure of the Pe Ell area. They’ve had some water over the roadway and that is basically the only closure they have in Lewis County. There have been some rumors sent out over social media that WSDOT has closed I-5. That is not true … The highway still remains open at this time,” McDowell told county commissioners. 

County Manager Erik Martin said flooding was “looking worse, not better, as we’ve gone through the day.” 

Lewis County officials urged residents to call 911 if they found themselves stuck and need to evacuate their home. 

According to the National Weather Service in Seattle, heavy rainfalls are expected to continue through Saturday. Flooding hit downtown Centralia Thursday the hardest, with multiple streets closed off, largely due to heavy flow from China Creek. 

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the Newaukum River at Chehalis was in moderate flooding, the Skookumchuck River at Bucoda was in minor flooding and Chehalis River at Grand Mound was just below minor flooding stage. 

Floodwaters are expected to continue an upward incline, with the worst flooding likely Friday and Saturday. 

— Eric Rosane, ericr@chronline.com

4:05 p.m. Update: Bucoda Prepares for Record Flooding, Sets up Emergency Operation Center

According to Bucoda Mayor Steven Purcell, Bucoda-area residents have been issued a notice to be prepared for evacuation.

The Skookumchuck River at Bucoda is now forecast to reach record highs, which will cause major flooding, inundating homes and roadways. 

The town has now set up an emergency operation center based out of the fire station, and is taking in people who may be displaced by the flood at the community center. People will be welcome to stay there overnight, and Purcell is trying to organize other services for them including breakfast.

“We’ve now got notice that this is going to surpass the 1996 flood,” Purcell said, but added later he has some hope because: “The thing about the Skookumchuck is, as quickly as it rises, it goes back down as quickly. They’re looking at it cresting tomorrow around 10 a.m.”

Roads out of Bucoda to the north, he said, are currently clear and open. South of Bucoda, last he heard, was also driveable. However, he said: “That could change by the time I hang up.”

3:30 p.m. Update: Skookumchuck Forecast to Pass ‘96 Flood Level by 2 Feet Friday Morning

The Skookumchuck River at Centralia now is projected to surpass its peak flood level by 2 feet on Friday morning, topping the record set in 1996, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Flood warnings have been issued for many of the Lewis County communities touched by the Chehalis, Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers at flood stages including Adna, Chehalis, Centralia, Doty and Dryad. Flood warnings for Thurston County communities on these rivers have also been issued including the Skookumchuck at Bucoda and the Chehalis at Grand Mound.

The Skookumchuck at Centralia, expected to reach 193.09 feet on Friday morning, will rise above the level of “Stage Four” flooding, which begins at 191.5 feet, meaning: “The Skookumchuck River will cause severe … record flooding in Centralia and the surrounding area. The river will flood most residential areas and roads and cover most of the farmland in the Skookumchuck River valley.”

For the Skookumchuck at Bucoda, it is predicted the river will also reach its 1996 record levels.

The Newaukum at Chehalis is the first river in the