Floodwaters Wreak Havoc in Grays Harbor County

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An unexpected flood that diverted traffic and flooded streets, as well as at least a few lawns and home foundations through Grays Harbor County on Monday Jan. 3, showed Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay the importance of having more substantial flood protection.

“One thing I’d say about the flood, it’s an exact reminder of why Aberdeen and Hoquiam are building the North Shore Levee project,” Shay said Tuesday, Jan. 4. 

Hannah Cleverly, deputy director of emergency management for Grays Harbor County, said in an email to Shay and many other government employees that it sounds like four factors — king tides, tidal surge, rain and rapid snowmelt — contributed to the “unexpected” flood.

A king tide is an exceptionally high tide.

The most impacted area in Hoquiam, according to Shay, Hoquiam Police Department Chief Jeff Myers and Deputy Chief Joe Strong, was the intersection of Highway 101 and state Route 109. The intersection helps form a triangle that runs between Al’s Humdinger restaurant and Central Playground. Hoquiam River runs along that area, too.

High tide, which was 12.8 feet at 1:03 p.m., on Monday, was predicted to be 12.47 feet at 1:57 p.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 4, according to the Hoquiam Police Department’s Facebook page. The tide chart shows high tide on Wednesday, Jan. 5, to be 12.14 feet.

Myers said he has been the Hoquiam police chief for 15 years and that he hasn’t seen the floodwaters in Hoquiam get as high as it did on Monday.

But, he said, the department was aware flooding would be an issue.

“I know (Grays Harbor) County Emergency Management has been working with the National Weather Service to see what happened,” Myers said.

Myers called Monday’s flooding an abnormality. The flooding stopped traffic at about 1:45 p.m. near the intersection of Sumner Avenue and 23rd Street in Hoquiam — more than eight blocks from Riverside Bridge. Traffic was slowed, or stopped, as late as 3:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, on Heron Street in Aberdeen.

Strong said the main challenges he saw were continuing calls for services, as all of Hoquiam’s police force and street departments were tied up on street diversions.

Strong said he has not received any reports of crashes or people getting stuck in the floodwaters Monday.

Myers said he and his staff noticed Hoquiam River getting high behind the police station during the late morning on Monday, but it wasn’t an unusual thing to see. Then they got a report of a broken main waterline at Al’s Humdinger restaurant.

“The river runs behind Humdinger,” he said. “The river got so high, it reached the levee behind Humdinger.”

Myers said the water reached to a point where it went over the area that was a former railroad track.

“We’ve had that before, but never to this extent,” he said. “As water continued, it flooded across the street (at) Lincoln Street-Highway 101.”

Myers said Hoquiam police closed the highway there to prevent cars from causing wave damage, which happens when a car drives through water and causes a wake that ends up spilling onto nearby home lawns and underneath homes.

“We don’t want people driving through, because it can knock your car out and leave you stranded,” he said. “And two, it can flood homes.”

Myers said the water got deeper and “inundated” six homes around Emerson Avenue, which is one of the other streets that runs right near Al’s Humdinger and Central Playground.

Shay said he spent some of Monday afternoon taking photos of the flooding throughout Hoquiam.

“I’m sure there are homeowners who have flood damage,” he said. “There were a couple homes near Karr (Street) and Eklund (Street) where there was definitely water that got into the first floor of those homes.”

Strong said the police response to the flooding was a success because staff diverted further damage and it prevented a lot of wake damage.

Both Karr and Eklund streets run from Highway 101, near Al’s Humdinger and the Hoquiam School District campus.

Both Hoquiam School District and Aberdeen School District canceled school Tuesday because of icy road conditions created overnight and also because of the expected tidal flooding that was expected around mid-day on Tuesday.

Copalis Beach

Echoes of the Sea, a Copalis Beach motel located at 3208 state Route 109, which has eight motel rooms, 10 recreational vehicle sites and seven campground sites, is dealing with flood damage throughout the property that could render it closed for several weeks, according to Scott Carroll, who bought the property with his wife Patty in August 2020.

“All eight of our motel rooms, all 10 of our RV sites and all seven of our tent sites were underwater yesterday,” Carroll said. “The motel rooms (have) got 14 inches of water inside.”

He said the flood forced six people, who were staying at the property between the motel rooms and at the RV sites, to evacuate.

Carroll said he and his staff are doing some basic cleanup, including the use of a variety of tools to suck up the water, so they can determine the extent of the damage, and then figure out what they’ll have to do to reopen Echoes of the Sea.

But he’s thankful they made repairs to the motel in 2021. The motel flooded on Jan. 12, 2021. The motel could see a sooner reopen date than last year’s timeline, which was between six to seven months. The damage last year was estimated between $130,000 and $140,000.

Carroll said the motel this year will be in a better situation.

“Fortunately, when we made the repairs after last year’s flood, we made the repairs in such a way that future repairs would be easier,” Carroll said. “We still don’t know the extent of the damage yet.”

Once the initial floodwater is removed from the property, the staff will disinfect the floors, and then assess the damage.

Carroll said his staff is responding well.

“We’re pulling together and pitching in to make sure things get cleaned up,” he said.