Lewis County Declares State of Emergency as Upwards of 5 Inches of Rainfall Expected Over Next 24 Hours


Lewis County commissioners passed a local declaration of emergency Thursday afternoon during an emergency meeting in preparation for historic flooding along the Skookumchuck, Newaukum and Chehalis rivers. 

Ross McDowell, deputy director with Lewis County Emergency Management, said the Twin Cities are forecasted to receive upwards of 5 inches over the next 24 hours, likely to further inundate already-flooded roadways, streets and homes near the rivers. 

“But that does not take into effect the snow drainage and the snow that’s melting off with this heavy rain due to the fact that it’s almost 50 degrees out here in Lewis County,” McDowell told commissioners. 

Fearing rising waters in the dead of night, county staff and officials urged residents, if they hadn’t already, to take action and evacuate homes if flooding was anticipated. Lewis County is currently in a Phase 2 Emergency Operations Center. 

Speaking to The Chronicle, Lewis County Board of Commissioners Chair Lindsey Pollock said people should remain aware of their surroundings, make sure they know what parts of their property flood and what routes they can use to safely evacuate, and to expect the unexpected. 

“Every flood is different. I think that’s the important thing to remember,” she said.

“There’s significant localized flooding everywhere throughout the west part of the county at this time,” said Public Works Director Josh Metcalf. “All the tributaries feeding into the rivers are all running full, there’s lots of degree in them as well. And, at this point in time, I think our count is over 40 roads that have water over them in a manner of either restricted or closed.” 

In collaboration with the Red Cross, Lewis County plans on opening up an emergency shelter at Centralia High School at 6 p.m. A walkthrough was set for 5 p.m. in order to confirm that location, McDowell said.

More information will be published when the emergency shelter opens.  

“We have been in contact with WSDOT. There’s been a closure of the Pe Ell area. They’ve had some water over the roadway and that is basically the only closure they have in Lewis County. There have been some rumors sent out over social media that WSDOT has closed I-5. That is not true … The highway still remains open at this time,” McDowell told county commissioners. 

County Manager Erik Martin said flooding was “looking worse, not better, as we’ve gone through the day.” 

Lewis County officials urged residents to call 911 if they found themselves stuck and need to evacuate their home. 

According to the National Weather Service in Seattle, heavy rainfalls are expected to continue through Saturday. Flooding hit downtown Centralia Thursday the hardest, with multiple streets closed off, largely due to heavy flow from China Creek. 

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the Newaukum River at Chehalis was in moderate flooding, the Skookumchuck River at Bucoda was in minor flooding and Chehalis River at Grand Mound was just below minor flooding stage. 

Floodwaters are expected to continue an upward incline, with the worst flooding likely Friday and Saturday. 

— Eric Rosane, ericr@chronline.com