Cleanup begins in Whatcom County as water slowly recedes

Nov 17, 2021, 12:44 PM
Two boys balance atop a flood wall holding back the flooded Skagit River, right, in downtown Mount Vernon, Wash., Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Even with rivers still flowing well over their banks, parts of Western Washington are able to start the cleanup process.

Parts of downtown Bellingham are still under water with cars submerged and roads closed. But even with all the damage, some people are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

“There’s just no way to keep enough equipment to be able to handle a situation like this,” said Gavin Green, who has been helping customers pick up the pieces.

After 19 years of repairing water damage, Green said he’s never seen it this bad.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the river go this high, the first time I’ve seen this much damage from river flooding,” he said.

With at least 500 families displaced by the floods, Whatcom County leaders are now trying to make sure residents there have someplace safe to stay. However, the flooding is still a major concern.

“We do have continuing flooding down at the mouth of the river. We’re hoping that by midnight we have the river close to back to its banks, and we begin the cleanup,” said John Gargett, the deputy director of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management.

Local officials said they won’t know how much damage was done until the water completely recedes, but they know it will cost millions to rebuild.

With so many roads washed out, the commute around the area will also be impacted for some time.

Jon Hutchings is the director of the Whatcom County Public Works Department. He said part of Birch Bay Lynden Road was destroyed.

“We’ll keep that closed for a matter of weeks at least until we can get a reasonable repair done,” Hutchings said.

Local officials are telling people to make notes and document all damage, especially if they’re planning to apply for federal assistance.

By Andrew Scheinthal, KIRO 7 News, and KIRO 7 News Staff

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Cleanup begins in Whatcom County as water slowly recedes