Flooding hits 75% of Sumas homes as responders stage rescues with boats, tractors

Nov 16, 2021, 2:55 PM | Updated: Nov 17, 2021, 7:40 am
weather, Sumas...
Flooded streets in Sumas, Washington. (WSDOT camera)
(WSDOT camera)

The small town of Sumas, Washington, was among the areas hit hardest by flooding early this week. As rescue efforts have wrapped up, Sumas Mayor Kyle Christensen says the real work has just begun.

Flood warnings, mudslide risk continues Tuesday across Western Washington

According to Christensen, roughly 75% of the town’s homes suffered water damage from flooding, with many areas almost completely underwater. Thankfully, most of the town’s 1,600 residents managed to evacuate before the major flooding arrived Monday, although first responders and volunteers have been working to rescue those who didn’t manage to get out in time.

Christensen — who also works as a volunteer firefighter — participated in those rescue efforts himself, which have seen responders get to flooded homes in boats and high-clearance farming vehicles. That included an instance on Tuesday morning, where he was able to help a pair of elderly women out of flooded waters and into the scoop of a tractor.

“We transitioned this morning to just heavy equipment and tractors that have been donated by local businesses and farmers that have been able to help just because of their high ground clearance,” Christensen told KIRO Radio’s Heather Bosch. “They’ve been able to get to houses that are otherwise inaccessible.”

“Right now, as I’m talking to you, I’m looking at a tractor with a lady with two dogs in the scoop — it’s driving by me right now,” he added. “She’s just got a grin on her face; it’s probably a bumpy ride, but she’s happy to be out of her house, which has a whole bunch of water in it.”

‘Atmospheric river’ causes floods, evacuations in Northwest

Starting Tuesday night, responders and volunteers will begin work to “help people clean out their houses,” and clear debris out of streets and homes.

“That’s where we’re really going to need more volunteers and support from the community to come together and help these people out that have lost all their belongings and their homes,” Christensen said. “And this is just the first step.”

Officials estimate that roughly 500 people have been displaced over flooding in Whatcom County, 280 of whom are currently spread across three new shelters stood up on Tuesday. Moving forward, it could be days before many residents will be able to get to their properties to assess damage.

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Flooding hits 75% of Sumas homes as responders stage rescues with boats, tractors