WENATCHEE — Rain came down fast and furious on Saturday but caused relatively little damage to roads or property thanks to the targeted nature of the storm and to work done after another damaging gully-washer three years ago.
The only possible flood damage reported in Wenatchee was in the area of Fourth and Elliott streets, where water escaped a drainage system that comes from the foothills and flowed into some homes.
But the floodwater that briefly overwhelmed the city’s stormwater system was eventually absorbed without causing damage.
Several stores in Valley North Center also reported water damage during the storm.
JC Penney closed several hours early on Saturday after its children’s department began flooding. Carpeting was taken out and inspectors are trying to figure out how the water got in, said Tammy Stillwaugh, the store’s talent resource leader.
Other stores in the center reported water damage in storage rooms at the back of the stores, but not in the customer areas.
Elsewhere in Chelan County, the intense rain caused a U.S. Forest Service road to wash out near Blewett Pass and triggered a slide in the Mission Creek drainage. Mission Creek and Peshastin Creek were both flowing with mud after the storm, indicating that mud slides occurred higher in the drainages, said Matt Karrer, hydrologist for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
The storm dumped intense amounts of rain in areas certain areas, but relatively little in others. Some rain gauges recorded as much as an inch of rain in an hour in Wenatchee, while Pangborn Memorial Airport in East Wenatchee recorded less than 0.1 inch all day.
In Wenatchee, the worst of the rain came in between Western Avenue and Miller Street, said Public Works Director Dan Frazier. The city’s stormwater system was built to withstand a 10-year rain, while Saturday’s storm was closer to a 20-year event, he said. So the water quickly filled the storm pipes, causing manhole covers to pop up and water to back up into city streets and parking lots.
He said that farther up No. 2 Canyon, water did wash out of a ditch and across the road, “but nothing like the 2010 storm.”
In July 2010, a heavy rainstorm caused widespread flash flooding and some property damage in the canyons west of Wenatchee, The water inundated the tennis courts at the Wenatchee Racquet & Athletic Club and caused geysers to shoot out of the stormwater system’s manholes.
Frazier said the city added some additional storm drain lines down Orchard Avenue after that storm to handle additional water. After Saturday’s storm, the city is evaluating pipes in the areas with the biggest water backup, particularly along Miller Street, to determine whether improvements are needed.
In most areas of the city, the water dissipated quickly after the storm passed, Frazier said.
“The system was working,” he said. “It was just too much water for it to handle in such a short time.”
Elsewhere in the county, heavy rainfall hit an area between Cashmere and Blewett Pass that was scorched by wildfire last summer. One forest road just off Highway 97 just south of Blewett Pass was washed out when a small draw was scoured by floodwater, Karrer said. The road is covered in mud and large boulders and is closed, though high-clearance vehicles could use it, he said.
Forest Service have not yet checked to see what caused the heavy mud flow in Mission Creek, he said, but suspect it was a mud slide or debris flow. The road is closed to vehicles at the forest boundary because of the threat of flash flooding in the fire-burned areas.
“We did have some problems, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been with all that rain,” he added.