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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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Warming temperatures mean rising water around Southwest Washington

As ice, snow from storms melt, rivers and streams are running higher and faster, creating dangerous conditions

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
A ship cruises past the shoreline at Frenchman&rsquo;s Bar Regional Park under overcast, drizzly conditions Friday morning. With daytime temperatures expected to reach the upper 50s and even low 60s beginning Sunday, melting snow from higher elevations could raise river levels.
A ship cruises past the shoreline at Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park under overcast, drizzly conditions Friday morning. With daytime temperatures expected to reach the upper 50s and even low 60s beginning Sunday, melting snow from higher elevations could raise river levels. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Recent steady rainfall has melted away the snow and ice that blanketed Southwest Washington last week. While that’s good news for drivers tired of slippery roads and treacherous streets, it also means the region’s rivers and streams are nearly filled to the brim.

On Thursday, Clark County Public Works warned that high, swift-moving waters at Lewisville, Moulton Falls, Lucia Falls, Frenchman’s Bar, Daybreak and other regional parks may pose safety risks for visitors, especially those using boat launches.

“Last night, the water was up pretty high (at Lewisville Regional Park). We’ve had a fair amount of rain,” Rocky Houston, division manager for Public Works’ parks and lands department, said Thursday.

Kaley McLachlan-Burton, community engagement manager for Public Works, said the county has been closely monitoring National Weather Service forecasts. She said the current forecast doesn’t show any local rivers hitting flood stage, but staff are ready to respond should flooding occur.

“No matter what happens, we are ready to respond,” McLachlan-Burton said Friday.

Calls from residents over the weekend will be picked up by the answering service then forwarded to on-call staff.

With daytime temperatures expected to reach the upper 50s and even low 60s beginning Sunday, melting snow from higher elevations could add to the problem.

“It will definitely push the river levels higher,” National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Burling said Friday.

Burling said only one river, which is south of the Portland metro area, is predicted to crest its banks. While forecasts don’t show any heavy rains or strong atmospheric rivers moving through the area within the next two weeks, Burling said that doesn’t mean some flooding won’t occur.

“We will certainly be monitoring (river levels) going forward as they remain close to flood stage,” he said.

Helpful reminders

Public Works reminds residents to be extra cautious when recreating near rivers and streams this winter and offered some helpful reminders:

  • Keep a close eye on children near any body of water. Younger children should always be within arm’s reach.
  • Wear a life jacket whenever recreating on, in or near the water, including wading, bank fishing, boat fishing, kayaking, etc. Fast-moving waters during the winter months are especially dangerous.
  • Stay away from rivers and streams during — and for several days after — heavy rain or snow events. Do not stand on rocks or logs in or near the water. River flows can change quickly and unexpectedly.
  • Never attempt to walk or bicycle through water on trails or roads if you can’t tell how deep it is. Water just 6 inches deep can sweep adults off their feet.
  • Obey all closures marked with signs, caution tape, cones or other barricades.
  • Watch for hazards or changes to riverbanks when high water recedes. High water can erode riverbanks and make them unstable or susceptible to collapse. It can also loosen rocks, trees and vegetation.

McLachlan-Burton said high river flows have damaged the boat launch at Lewisville Regional Park. Although users may continue to use the launch at their own risk, additional high flows in the coming months could further damage the launch.

Signs posted at the launch will update users about the conditions of the launch. The launch will be closed if damage renders it unusable. Users of all county boat launches are reminded that high winter flows can shift launches, introduce debris and hazards, and make launching and landing especially difficult. Launch users should always wear a life jacket, especially when launching and landing.

To report flooding

Residents can report flooding on trails, parks and roads at clark.wa.gov/public-works/report-park-road or by calling 564-397-2446.

Before leaving home, Burling recommended checking for updated forecasts, flood warnings and more at www.weather.gov.

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