WENATCHEE — Manhole covers popped, streets flooded, traffic stalled and flood warnings extended into Saturday evening here as thunderstorms dumped torrents of rain on foothill slopes and into city storm drains.
Runoff from afternoon gully-washers in foothills west of the city coursed along city streets — Miller, Western, Springwater, McKittrick — to form sidewalk-lined waterways that doused some Wenatchee police officers up to mid-shin as they directed traffic through the heaviest streams.
“It got pretty bad at various choke points,” said Cpl. Phil Thompson, spokesman for the Wenatchee Police Department. “At Miller and Fifth streets, it was a watery disaster for an hour or so — and then it was gone, with nothing left but damp streets.”
South of the city around 4 p.m., residents along Mission Creek watched skies darken as cell phones buzzed flash-flood alerts from the National Weather Service. Into evening, deputies from the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office visited campgrounds up Icicle Creek near Leavenworth — and other popular camping spots — to warn recreationists of possible flash floods.
In Cashmere, the 35th Annual Founder’s Day floundered only briefly — literally one minute, according to organizers — as heavy rain fell between the end of the parade and before the start of the popular pingpong ball drop. “It actually cooled things down a bit,” said Jill FitzSimmons, manager of the Cashmere Chamber of Commerce. Before the storms hit, temperatures across the Wenatchee Valley were hovering at 90 degrees or more.
The National Weather Service continued to revise storm warnings late into Saturday evening for the Wenatchee Valley and south central Chelan County. Scattered thunderstorms were expected to bring gusty winds, possible lightning and rainfall of up to 1 inch per hour.
The NWS stressed caution around highland creeks and streams — particularly those near Johnny Creek, Bridge Creek and Eight-Mile campgrounds — and on country roads and farmlands near creeks and streams.
“Flooding is occurring or imminent,” the NWS warned. “It is important to know where you are relative to streams, rivers or creeks, which can become killers in heavy rains.”
But on the ground, conditions weren’t quite so dramatic.
True, manhole covers at several Wenatchee street intersections were blown upwards by streams of coursing water. But Wenatchee police officers replaced most of those once the torrents subsided.
“We had heavy rainfall in the No. 1 and No. 2 Canyon areas,” Cpl. Jason Reinfeld with the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office at 4 p.m. Saturday. “But so far, no serious damage has occurred. Some dirt and gravel swept over roadways in a couple of spots, but no washouts or mudslides.”
He paused. “Just lots and lots of water.”