Sunday, December 5, 2021
Dec. 5, 2021

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Whatcom County flood losses could reach $50M

County hard hit by last week’s ‘atmospheric river’


BELLINGHAM — Damages from flooding in Whatcom County could reach as high as $50 million, Whatcom County officials said at an online briefing Tuesday, at the Whatcom Unified Emergency Operations Center.

John Gargett, deputy director of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management, said he wouldn’t be surprised if public and private damages and economic losses reach that mark.

Included among that $50 million, Gargett said, were estimates of $15 million to $20 million in damage to houses in the area, “tens of millions of dollars” in damage to public infrastructure and another $15 to $20 million in damage to area business centers.

A pineapple express storm drenched Whatcom County for three days and the Nooksack River surged over its banks on Nov. 14, inundating the communities of Everson, Nooksack and Sumas — where City Hall, the post office and some 80 percent of homes suffered water damage.

A BNSF train derailed, the U.S.-Canada border closed in Sumas, three bridges in Bellingham were closed, and landslides blocked Interstate 5 south of Bellingham.

Gargett said recovery will be a long process.

U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene, D-Kirkland, whose 1st District includes northern Whatcom County, said she grieved for Jose Garcia of Everson, who was swept away by floodwaters, and for those who lost their homes and businesses.

“I’m heartbroken for what’s happened,” DelBene said. “I am heartbroken for the family of Mr. Garcia, for the life that was lost during this disaster.”

DelBene promised to help steer federal aid toward those who suffered losses.

“It’s been incredibly difficult across the board for families, many who were just starting to recover from the last floods we had,” DeBene said.

After the meeting, she said she planned to tour the devastation in Everson and Sumas and talk with displaced residents as Gov. Jay Inslee did last week.

“I want to help communities get as much resources as possible to help both with public infrastructure as well as helping families,” she said.

Much of the most severe flooding was in areas that had been hard-hit by a similar atmospheric river storm in early 2020, and in several years previously, said Jon Hutchings, director of the Public Works Department.

“It’s been 30-plus years since there’s been a flood of this scale,” Hutchings told the Whatcom County Council during a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Hutchings said 160 bridges throughout the county have been examined since Friday with no obvious structural damage found.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crews started repairs Tuesday on Nooksack River levees in four locations, including near Lynden and on the Lummi Peninsula.