Whatcom County resident recounts having to leave home by boat amid devastating flood

Nov 17, 2021, 5:32 AM
Whatcom County flooding...
Flooding struck across Whatcom County early this week. (Deedee Sun, KIRO 7)
(Deedee Sun, KIRO 7)

Hundreds of Whatcom County residents were forced to evacuate from their homes this week due to flooding. For Everson resident Lori Gardner, it was a surreal experience to say the least.

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

“My husband and I have lived in Whatcom County, we have never seen the river rise and come from the direction that it did,” Gardner told MyNorthwest.

At 11 p.m. on Sunday, there was little more than a “little pond in the driveway” outside her home. By 6 a.m. the following morning, she and her husband were woken up by the sound of roaring water.

“The water was running like a river through our backyard,” Gardner recalled. “It had come up to the house and all of our cars and trucks were underwater.”

With two motorcycles and an antique car in their garage, they started scrambling to block doors with as many blankets and towels as they could find. The water got in regardless, flowing in through the heater and underneath doorways.

Not long after that, “we were standing in two inches of water,” Gardner said. As the water continued to rise, she and her husband began packing bags, quickly flagging down a passing truck outside from their living room window.

The driver of the truck then left momentarily before returning with a boat. Gardner and her husband climbed in with their belongings, their dog, and their cat in a carrier, hitching a ride down the road to their daughter’s house.

They were finally able to return to their home on Tuesday, now submerged in six inches of water on the main floor, along with three feet of standing water in the lower-level garage.

“Right now, the water is still up to thigh-high and we waded through that today,” Gardner said. “Everything in the garage was floating, and all of our motorcycles are underwater. All the tools were underwater. We had a chest freezer that floated and tipped over on its side, and all of the contents were spilling out.”

‘Atmospheric river’ causes floods, evacuations in Northwest

Thankfully, they have flood insurance, but will still have to wait for an inspector to come in and assess the damage in person. In the meantime, she says they will likely have to start ripping out their carpets and flooring, despite having recently finished a lengthy remodel.

“The sad part is we just finished a two-year remodel project, and our house was beautiful,” she said. “We just put $180,000 into the remodel — it’s a 1900s house in need of some real TLC, and we had put it off.”

Gardner estimates it’ll take a good six months before they can move back into their home. Meanwhile, she says it’s just stuff. She feels truly blessed she’s surrounded by her children and grandchildren in a warm home.

“I want to put my heart out to those people. … I can’t imagine,” Gardner said of residents in Everson and Sumas who’ve lost so much more this week.

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.

It’s estimated that roughly 75% of homes in the neighboring town of Sumas were flooded as part of Monday’s stormy weather.

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Whatcom County resident recounts having to leave home by boat amid devastating flood