Lewis County Sees $4.5 Million in Flood Damages

Estimate Accounts for About a Third of State’s Threshold to Receive FEMA Funding


Between public and individual damages, Lewis County Emergency Management is reporting upwards of $4.5 million in damages resulting from January’s flooding in the Chehalis River Basin.

Ross McDowell, deputy director at Lewis County Emergency Management, has coined the flood events as the “New Year’s Eve Flood” since the flooding stemmed from snow melt that accumulated around the turn of the year coupled with rainfall that began Jan. 6.

“The prediction was for record-breaking river levels on three of the rivers, which was the Newaukum River, the Chehalis River and also the Skookumchuck River,” McDowell said at the Lewis County commissioners’ mayors meeting on Friday. “As predictions kept coming in, they kept getting worse and worse. They just kept going higher and higher from the National Weather Service. … It didn't look very good.”

He touted the county's use of its Lewis County Alert emergency notification system, which he said gave people ample warning of the impending events.

As it is, Lewis County Emergency Management received 141 relief calls, including calls that were classified as individual damages — or calls about residences, businesses or personal property.

For individual residences, the department received 48 calls from Centralia, 78 from Chehalis, 11 from Adna, one from Boistfort, one from Onalaska and “two from the Ethel and Salkum area,” he said.

For businesses, three calls came from Centralia, six came from Chehalis and one came from Ethel.

In all, individual damages stemming from the New Year’s Eve Flood amounted to $1,613,774.

In Centralia, there was $274,500 in damage to personal property and $386,700 to structures. In Chehalis, there was $202,037 in personal-property damages and an additional $227,000 in structural damages. And in unincorporated Lewis County, personal property took a $321,500 hit, while structures there took $203,037 in damages.

Public damage was even more extensive, with taxing districts in the county receiving damages that amounted to $3,996,744.

In damages, Centralia received $110,051; Chehalis received $477,881; The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad received $430,900; Lewis County received $2,613,470; Lewis County PUD received $132,203; Napavine received $140,000; Port of Chehalis received $63,600; and Riverside Fire Authority received $28,638.

In order to become eligible for relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), McDowell said the county has to meet a damages threshold of $336,810.

“We beat that test tenfold,” McDowell said. “We did that. That’s a check.”

Yet in order for the governor to make a request for FEMA assistance in the first place, the state must meet a threshold of about $12.5 million in damages from one disaster.

“We have Grays Harbor, Pacific, all these other counties, and all of the counties up north — any of those that were involved during those flooded times, all their money comes together ... to make that (state threshold),” McDowell said. “We’re still gathering that information.

“We were the first county to get our numbers to (the state), and we’re still waiting on the other counties,” he said. “But once that comes in, I believe we probably will make this (threshold). There are rumors that it’s in the double digits already.”