The Gristle

April Showers

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

APRIL SHOWERS: Few things about weather in the Pacific Northwest are certain, but when the National Weather Service predicts—as they did last weekend—the chance of rain is 100 percent, you’d better prepare. As Mark Twain once quipped, “We all grumble about the weather, but nothing is done about it.”

In a way, though, that’s not altogether true.

Heavy rains have triggered landslides and fears of landslides, road failures and fear of road failures, and that in turn has produced action.

Residents near the community of Oso temporarily evacuated their homes on a rainy night last week due to fears of a slow-moving landslide. People living near the site of the deadly 2014 landslide noticed cracks and faults along a road that connects to Highway 530 in Snohomish County and called authorities. Geologists will continue to monitor the area, which is still unstable from the more violent slope failure three years ago that engulfed 49 homes in an unincorporated neighborhood on the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Certainly less devastating but closer to home, the popular Hertz Trail along the north shore of Lake Whatcom remains partially and temporarily closed while parks crews clean up landslide debris. Repeated freezing and thawing of snow and ice, working like a pickaxe in weaknesses in the steep slopes above, likely helped produce the slide.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources released a guide and report this week in tandem with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to help homeowners identify and reduce landslide hazards around the home.

As noted in their report, landslides are one of the most common natural hazards in the Pacific Northwest. One cubic foot (7.5 gallons) of water weighs 62.3 pounds, increases downward force on steep slopes, and the region receives gallons and gallons of rain in this season. Due to steep topography and heavy precipitation, Washington and Oregon are some of the most landslide-prone states in the country. This winter’s heavy snow and rain totals—at record levels in February and March—have resulted in a high number of landslides in both states.

“The direct cost of landslide damage includes the repair of roads and property and the loss of life,” DNR geologists note in their report. “Indirect costs, such as loss of property value and tax revenue, and environmental effects, such as the degradation of water quality, can exceed direct costs. The Washington Department of Transportation routinely budgets $15 million a year for cleanup of landslides on highways. Nationally, landslides exceed $2 billion in loss each year and result in an estimated 25–50 deaths.”

Whatcom County Council is currently at work methodically updating sections on geological hazards in the county’s Critical Areas Ordinance—a balancing document that attempts to govern and protect resource lands and the ecological processes that sustain them, while allowing for appropriate productive use of that land and property. They will present those updates in a public meeting later this spring, and the updates will most certainly include discussion on recent heavy weather events.

Responding to weather incidents statewide, Governor Jay Inslee this week submitted a request for federal aid to help 15 counties recover from the impacts of severe winter storms including Whatcom and Snohomish counties. Inslee urged the Trump administration to consider the cumulative impacts of weather-related disasters on the state and all its counties since 2015. Severe weather, floods, high winds and wildfires cost the state more than $323 million during this period, with the federal government providing $155 million in disaster assistance and emergency aid to local, state and tribal governments.

“Winter storms caused injuries, power outages impacting 100,000 customers, and other significant disruptions around the state,” Inslee noted. “Cleaning up and repairing damages will take months to years, and our local communities will benefit greatly from federal assistance.”

Whatcom County declared an emergency in early February, citing winter storms with heavy snow, extended arctic winds, and periodic power outages. The county suffered freezing rain and ice-covered roadways creating hazardous and impassable road conditions, with heavy rains flooding snow-filled ditches. Inland cities of Everson and Lynden experienced a large amount of debris from the snow and freezing rain, making safe passage on roads almost impossible. High flows from snow melt caused a massive culvert failure in the farmland district and a sinkhole created a 20-25-foot gap that required emergency shoring of the road and removal of the culvert, the governor detailed in his letter.

If the president agrees to the governor’s request, this storm would be the fifth major disaster declared in the state in less than two years.

Much of the damage identified in preliminary damage assessment by the federal Emergency Management Agency in late March was to roads. The freeze-thaw cycle caused significant damage to foundations, pavement and drainage systems to more than 750 local and state roadways.

FEMA’s public assistance program, if granted by the president, would provide grants of 75 percent for the eligible cost of emergency response, debris removal and repairs to damaged infrastructure. Typically, the remaining 25 percent is split between the state and impacted jurisdictions. A decision on the state-local cost share will be made in the Legislature in coming weeks.

The Pacific Northwest, according to all models, is expected to ride out the coming years of increasing climate instability and catastrophic storm events with comparative calm in contrast to climate disasters forecast for other portions of the continent. It will rain, though—longer, heavier, perhaps more erratic and less seasonally useful than in the past. Preparedness and planning policy is our only umbrella.

SVCR Brunch
Past Columns
Fire and Water

July 19, 2017

Some Assembly Required

July 12, 2017

Good, Bad, Ugly

July 5, 2017

Zero Hour

June 28, 2017

Standoff

June 21, 2017

An Existential Triangle

June 14, 2017

Divided Decisions

June 7, 2017

Breached and Beached

May 10, 2017

The Calm Before the Storm

April 26, 2017

April Showers 2

April 19, 2017

The Fix Flops

April 5, 2017

A Perfect Storm

March 29, 2017

Monopoly

March 15, 2017

Layers of Concern

March 8, 2017

The Fix Is In

March 1, 2017

Events
Today
Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

The soundtrack of summer

10:16am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

I and You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Project Homeless Connect

9:00am|Bellingham High School

Wild Things

9:30am|Boulevard Park

Community Quilt Project

10:00am|Deming Library

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Mission Folk Music Festival

12:00pm|Fraser River Heritage Park

North Cascades Vintage Fly-In

12:00pm|Concrete

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

3:00pm|Centennial Riverwalk Park

Pop-Up Beer Garden

3:00pm|Fairhaven

Sin & Gin Tours

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

Commercial Street Night Market

6:00pm|Commerical Street

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Port of Anacortes Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Seafarers Park

The Drowsy Chaperone

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Burlington Summer Nights

7:00pm|Burlington Visitors Center Amphitheater

Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Skagit River Shakespeare Festival

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

Sandcastle

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Festival of Music Finale

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

An Improvised Musical

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Lester and Hyldahl
Tomorrow
Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

I and You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Mission Folk Music Festival

12:00pm|Fraser River Heritage Park

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

North Cascades Vintage Fly-In

12:00pm|Concrete

Pop-Up Beer Garden

3:00pm|Fairhaven

Sin & Gin Tours

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

The Drowsy Chaperone

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Skagit River Shakespeare Festival

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

Sandcastle

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

An Improvised Musical

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Plant Hike

7:00am|Grouse Ridge

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Forest Owners Field Day

9:00am|Alexander Ross Tree Farm

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am|Lummi Island

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Summer Harvest Day

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Birch Bay Sandcastle Competition

10:00am|Birch Bay Community Park

Fairhaven Steampunk Festival

10:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Summer Sampling Party

11:00am|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Farm to Glass Distillery Tours

12:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Weaving Indra's Net

12:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Curator Talk and Clayton James Celebration

1:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Artifacts of time and place

1:00pm

Field Games Day

1:00pm|VanderYacht Park

Beauty Lou and the Country Beast

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Taste of Walla Walla Dinner Cruise

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Wine and Paint

6:30pm|Stoneycreek Glassware

Feast & Frolic in the Fields

6:30pm|Viva Farms

Larry Hildes Benefit Concert

7:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Look to the skies

8:43pm

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Sunday
Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Sounds by the bay

9:41am

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

I and You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

North Cascades Vintage Fly-In

12:00pm|Concrete

Mission Folk Music Festival

12:00pm|Fraser River Heritage Park

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Pop-Up Beer Garden

3:00pm|Fairhaven

The Drowsy Chaperone

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Skagit River Shakespeare Festival

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

Birch Bay Sandcastle Competition

10:00am|Birch Bay Community Park

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Farm to Glass Distillery Tours

12:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Look to the skies

8:43pm

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Vietnam Veterans Car Show

10:00am|Barkley Village

Forest Walk

11:00am|Fairhaven Park

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Brewers by the Bay

1:00pm|Depot Market Square

Audubon at the Museum

2:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Angels in America

2:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

MBT Open House

2:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Fiddlin' Fox Summer Concert Series

2:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Trivia Night

5:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Marrowstone Music Festival

7:00pm|Western Washington University

Mousetrap Auditions

7:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

see our complete calendar »

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