Twin Cities Residents, Businesses Begin the Recovery Phase After Severe Flooding 

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The water was still up to the doorstep when Dave Mills and his employees got back Saturday to their business, located at the corner of Chehalis Avenue and James Street.

It was about 9:30 a.m. and the coming hours would see plenty of cleaning muck, squeegeeing floors and dehumidifying rooms at Mills Northwest Heating and Cooling. Water from the nearby Dillenbaugh Creek had inundated the business on Friday. 

“We lifted everything (off the floors) Thursday afternoon and barged out,” Mill said. “You can see the flood marks in the bathroom. Some are marked on wood and some are by memory. This is the third-highest one.” 

The flood in 2007 brought water up to chin height and 1996 was up about waist high. This week’s flood inundated their business with only about 2 feet of water — just up to the knee, Mills said. 

Aside from the water marks, Mills said he didn’t believe his business sustained any significant damage. Over takeout pizza and garlic twists, and alongside a few employees, Mills proclaimed proudly that they would be open Monday. 

As water from the Newaukum, Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers began receding Saturday, cleanup began in earnest for local residents and businesses. 

It’s far too early to accurately say how much damage this flood caused Twin City residents, said Ross McDowell, deputy director of Lewis County Emergency Management, but the county has begun assessing damage. 

“It’s all really just patchwork,” said Centralia Mayor Max Vogt, describing the cleanup process. He added later: “I think we dodged a major bullet … It was still bad, but it didn’t look like what it could have been.” 

The 5-plus inches of rainfall the Twin Cities, as well as the foothills surrounding the Skookumchuck and Newaukum, were due to receive Thursday into Friday mostly moved north. Still, the area got a good 4 inches, McDowell said, which was enough to send many into panic. 

Homes in low-lying areas — including the Waunch Prairie, the Logan District, parts of south downtown Chehalis, and portions of downtown Centralia along China Creek — had water up to their doorsteps. Salzer Creek on Saturday was still flooding Kresky Avenue, causing northbound travelers between the two cities to opt for Interstate 5 instead. 

“There’s still a few areas in Centralia that have water. In Chehalis, there’s still an area near Thorbeckes and at the Chehalis Apartments that still have water,” McDowell said. 

About two dozen Lewis County drivers were rescued from their vehicles after travelling through high-standing water the last couple days, McDowell said. Daring drivers have been a sore spot for Emergency Management crews this time around, he said. 

Lewis County Gospel Mission, located next door to Mills Heating and Cooling, was again inundated with water this flood season. A video posted on the organization’s Facebook page showed standing water still in their Chehalis Avenue location by Saturday. 

Others were luckier. 

“We are happy to announce that the main building did not take on water. There are still lots to clean up and we plan on doing that on Monday, as long as the water recedes,” read a Facebook post Saturday from the Veterans Memorial Museum, located near Shorey Road which was hit hard Friday by floodwaters upwards of 4 feet. 

McDowell said there were multiple cars submerged on Shorey Road that they’ll have to move once waters recede. 

Russell Snyder, 31, a renter on Southwest James Street in Chehalis, said his garage took the brunt of the damage from this flood. He estimates he lost a couple thousand dollars’ worth of items left in the garage, which was acting as a shop. 

His and two other apartment units are propped up on about 7 feet of blocks, so he and his family stayed home and waited out the storm this week. He said he’s keeping a positive attitude about the whole thing. 

“I’m feeling pretty lucky. The kids are healthy. It’s just stuff,” he said. 

Fred Robinson, 52, and his mother Priscilla Robinson, 73, live on Little Hanaford Road in Centralia. He’s lived there about a decade now, and notes the flooding on China Creek this year has been the worst he’s seen. 

Two of his five acres of property were flooded, including many of his dahlia flowers that he sells as a side hustle. He owns about 300 varieties, and they often get flooded out each year. On Friday, water from China Creek jumped Little Hanaford Road, submerging the roadway in a foot of water, and flooded his yard. 

The only thing that likely saved his home from damage was a 3-foot high levy in his yard that spans roughly 500 feet. 

“I have to continuously maintain this” during flood season, he said. “It changes. It comes in a different way every time.” 

His yard and his shed were inundated with water, though. He spent most of Saturday morning cleaning up and pumping water out of his yard. 

How to Report Damage? 

A phone number for Lewis County’s damage reporting hotline was set up Saturday for people who need to report damage. 

Residents can call 360-740-2600 to leave a message with their name, address, email and best callback phone number to report flood damage. A website is being developed by Emergency Management that will provide forms to fill out to complete an initial damage report. 

Details on that website will be published at a later date.