Photos of the 2009 Samish River flood

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Photos & Descriptions | USGS River Height Summaries | Flood Timeline | Flood Driving |

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Photos and Descriptions

The photos below are of the Samish River Flood in early 2009. They were taken near Samish Island.

Samish River Bridge on Highway 11
Bayview Edison Road under water
Monday, Jan 6. Photo from the Samish River bridge near Warehouse Foods on highway 11, shows that water levels have begun to climb rapidly, from 7 feet to 11 feet in one day.

Tuesday, Jan 7, the river height climbs from 11 to 13.7 ft.
Photo by Dick Nevitt.
Wednesday, Jan 8. River reaches its peak height of 14 ft. The USGS has "not determined a flood stage for the Samish River."

The first sign that the river was over its banks for Samish flats, was on Wednesday, with the flooding of Bayview Edison Road, south of the T- junction.
Photo by Jen Barker.
Samish Island Road under water

Samish Road under water

Thursday, Jan 9. The river height decreased from 12 ft to 10 ft, but the flooding out on the flats is just beginning for Samish flats. This view is near the first part of the S-curve off Samish island.
See WSDOT photo on January 9
Photo by Jen Barker.
Thursday, Jan 9. Samish Island Road near the island, is under 5-6" of water, around 1:30 p.m.
The Samish river height had decreased to 11 feet by this time, but the flooding had just begun for islanders.
Photo by webmaster

Truck gets through

Waterfowl signs
Thursday, Jan 9. Trucks with 4WD or high wheel-base aren't afraid to negotiate the water. They can see the yellow line under water - in the daylight.
Photo by webmaster
Thursday, Jan 9. The field west of Samish Island Road is completely under water at 2:30 p.m.
Photo by webmaster.
Road Closed Emergency vehicles
Friday, Jan 10. Road Closed signs appeared, around 7:00 a.m. The river height had decreased to 9.5, but flooding is still increasing on the delta flats.
Photo by webmaster.
Friday, Jan 10. A county vehicle puts up more "road closed" signs.
Photo by webmaster.
Roadway become a meeting place

The Ratfields ferry a car across the flood

Friday, Jan 10. Islanders and pets meet and greet on the road, while surveying the flood.
Photo by webmaster.
Friday, Jan 10. The Ratfields ferry an islander's car across the waterway so its driver could return to Gonzaga University.

Photo by Julie Rousseau.
Boating: always a good way around in floods Yesterday's speed limit
A good way to get around these days.

Photo by Julie Rousseau.
Speed limit - so yesterday.

Photo by Julie Rousseau.
Where are the navigation lights when you need them? Almost Home
Saturday, Jan 11. Samish Island Road, mid-afternoon. The Samish river height was now down to 9.5 ft, after a brief rise and drop, but the flooding is at its height on the Samish flats.

Where are the navigation lights when you need them?

Photo by Therese Ogle.
Saturday, Jan 11, late afternooon. Driving toward Samish Island.

Photo by Dick Nevitt.
Stranded voles in high spots Aerial shot of the fields & island by a pilot
Jan 11. Stranded voles.
Photo by Doug Hopley
Sunday, Jan 12. A pilot's photo of Samish Island and the diked delta road to the island. The river level has dropped to 9 ft at this point, but the flooding on the delta is barely decreasing.
Photo by Mike Schmidt
Flooded barn with boat Map of the Samish River Basin (small)
Sunday, Jan 12. Barn with Boat. Roads have 2-4" water, still not comfortable driving except for high-wheel-base vehicles and daring drivers.
Monday, January 13 and Tuesday, January 14 - Roads become passable again, six days after high river mark.
Photo by Doug Hopley
Click on map to see the entire Samish River Basin.

USGS River Height Data, January 6 to January 16

USGS River Height Chart 1

Jan 13 - This USGS chart gives an accurate picture of the progression of the flood waters affecting
the Lower Samish River Basin and Samish Island, between January 6 and January 13, 2009.
From USGS Real Time Water Data.

USGS River Height Chart 2

Jan 16 - River levels after flooding subsides, returning to the 7-foot level.


Samish River Gage Heights Summary, Jan 6-16, 2009:

Tuesday, January 6 - The Samish River from the Chuckanut Bridge, shows rising waters to just under the bridge. The gauge jumped from 7' to 13' feet in one day.

Wednesday, January 7 - River gauge height was 14 feet -highest flood marker during the late night of January 7.

Thursday, January 8 - River gauge height decreased to 13-feet. Around the flats, the flooding was just being noticed on road and farm fields of Bayview Edison Road, just south of the T-junction. Bayview Edison Road was closed at 6 p.m.

Friday, January 9 - River gauge height was 11 feet. Samish Island Road east of the T- Junction began flooding over the roadway from the field south of the road. By 1 p.m. the flood had spread west to the West-90 curve and onto the s-curve by Ploegs. Rumors of a breach in the dike circulated, but it was just flooding from the river. By evening, the road was dangerous and many people did not know they were driving into flood waters on their way home. Water was 5-6 inches deep on the road, with lower spots reported at 10" deep. One small truck was swept by floodwaters into the west ditch between the island and the first gray house. It completely submerged within a minute. The driver escaped, unharmed but cold and shaken.

Saturday, January 10 - "Road Closed" signs appear on the island in the early morning. River gauge height is 10 feet, dropping to 9 feet, then back up to 10 feet when the heavy rains come in the afternoon. Samish Island Road is almost completely covered, from 500 feet from the island and south. Daylight revealed the extent of flooding. Many people in high-wheel base trucks can drive through, but very slowly, about 5 mph. Islanders use the own communications link via Group email and the Samish Island Web page to share stories and information. Someone puts small stakes with red flags to measure the closest point of flood to the island.

Island residents hold "Survivor: off the island" parties - everyone digs through freezers and pantry to find appetizers and wine to share. No voting taken to see who gets off the island first.

Sunday, January 11 - River drops to 9.5 feet or so. The grasses begin appearing in the fields west of the main road again.

Monday, January 12 - River level drops to 9 feet. Road Closed signs are removed, but it is still difficult to drive small cars. Many islanders continue to stay on the island. Water across roadway drops to 2-4" but it is still not comfortable driving.

Tuesday, January 13 - River level is 8.5 feet and dropping . The Bayview Edison Road, which was the first to close, is still closed today. All other roads in the lower Samish Basin are clear, with some encroachment on the lower part of the banked curves. We can say the flood is over, but there is lots of messiness at the edges that will take awhile to clean up.

Wednesday, January 14 - River Level is 8 feet, and continuing to drop. Bayview Edison Road is open again today. Allen West just east of Farm to Market is closed for maintenance.

Thursday-Friday, January 15-16 - River level is back down in the 7-foot level. All roads are again passable.


Flood Driving Etiquette?

These were some ideas from the island e-mail group on January 11, 2009. The group email was very useful for communications during this flood.

Rule of Thumb 1: Make sure your tailpipe can clear the water, and you can see the yellow line under the water. The water is about 12"-14" deep or more in some places, so your tailpipe must be at least that from the ground.

Rule of Thumb 2: If you can actually see a vehicle already in the water coming in your direction it would be best to wait until it has crossed the water completely. This way everyone can stay in the center of the road on the yellow line to be safe. You never know if the sides of the road have eroded or not and it could be dangerous to venture too far from the center. Also, everyone should be driving with their lights on to be more visible from the "other side". We are all sort of figuring this out as we go.

Peer Ahead: to see if someone has already started through from the other direction. It reminded me of the time in England I was driving a 70-foot barge through narrow canalways and over one-lane aquaducts and bridges -- I couldn't believe how well it worked, but one boat at a time went through, simply by peering ahead and seeing if someone had already started heading towards them from the other direction...

Use Very Slow Speeds: and careful distancing from the centerline to allow for temporary traffic in both directions.

Be kind. Don't yell out your window at someone who doesn't know "the etiquette" (none of us did until just now), or is unskillful. We may be able to practice our flood etiquette in another 12-18 years (last flood was in 1990-91), but its been a good discussion. Thanks for the interesting posts.



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