WENATCHEE — When an emergency weather alert came over Keith Flowers’ TV on Saturday, he knew exactly where the danger would come from.
He ran outside and looked up at the hill above his home on Boodry Street, where a small community of mobile homes sits at the base of a deep canyon in South Wenatchee.
The water was already shooting out of a culvert at the top and carving a deep hole in the side of the hill, he said.
“That water was coming out of that pipe this big around,” he said, stretching his arms wide. “It looked like a waterfall coming out of that pipe, and as it hit the hillside it was going ‘whoosh, boom, boom,’ just like a grenade going off."
Flowers, 62, has seen Boodry Street flood at least five times since he moved there 15 years ago, but it’s never been this bad, he said. He was the mobile home park’s manager for five years, so he knows the residents — and the flood risks — well.
Within minutes, the hillside was already flowing down toward the mobile homes below, but Flowers didn’t see his next-door neighbors evacuating.
“I’m the one that called 911 and my concern at that time was that there was a family next door that I knew was trapped,” he said. “I had seen all that rock come down into their place. … I didn’t see any movement and I thought ‘They’re about to get wiped out, just like my place did.’”
Law enforcement arrived quickly and helped carry the family’s young children out of their home and across a river of mud flowing down the street.
Flowers jumped into his truck and moved it down the street out of harm’s way, he said.
“From the time I saw it drizzling, I had about three minutes to get to my truck and get the hell out of my house,” he said. Luckily his roommate and longtime friend Jerry Phillips was out of town and safe, but their cat was nowhere to be found.
By that point Chelan County Sheriff’s Office deputies were moving up and down the street, advising people that they should evacuate in case more of the hill came down.
Natalie Newman, the mobile home park’s current manager, was using a long yellow rake to unclog storm drains. She knocked on doors to check on her residents.
The rain began to subside, but the rivers of mud continued to flow for another hour on Saturday evening. Residents who had retreated down the street slowly walked back up to their homes to check for damage.
Chelan County declared three of the residences uninhabitable and "red-tagged" them on Saturday, Commissioner Kevin Overbay said.
Flowers returned home to find the structure a near-total loss. The water was more than a foot deep in some rooms. They found Gunney, the 20-year-old cat, hiding above a TV and covered in mud.
A GoFundMe has been set up to cover the damages: wwrld.us/2MZrc2c
Cascading rocks had shattered their rear window, pouring into the back bedroom several feet high. The head-sized rocks covered everything in the room, including Phillips’ bed.
By Monday, the mud had dried, leaving the street a dusty tan color. A crew was using heavy equipment to clear piles of dirt.
Flowers and Phillips met with the Red Cross in the afternoon and received a $500 housing stipend. The pair plan to stay in a motel for a few days while they look for a new place to live.
They were able to salvage a few personal items from their mobile home, but the cleanup was just starting, Flowers said.
“We have to get a game plan together and come back with boxes,” he said. “I’ve had this place for 15 years and man, this is a real shame.”
World reporter Tony Buhr contributed to this story.