Sandbags remain and city of Ellensburg public works staff are standing by for any further flooding near Parklane Avenue and Regal Street during the weekend’s predicted 80-degree temperatures.
Flooding from Mercer Creek partially submerged a portion of the intersection and the roadway up Parklane Avenue past 18th Avenue north of Central Washington University Sunday and Monday.
The same spot has flooded before, but according to Rick Bollinger, the city’s assistant public works director, there isn’t anything special about that spot to make it flood prone.
“I don’t think it’s any different than any location in town,” he said. “Floods affect us differently almost every year.”
It’s likely that small streams and creeks leading from higher elevation areas around the Kittitas Valley and Upper County will see high water in the next few days or minor flooding, according to Kittitas County Public Works officials.
“As always at this time of year, especially with that new snow, we don’t know exactly what will happen in the smaller streams,” said Christina Wollman, county floodplain manager. “We’re asking people to be aware of the possibility of flooding,” especially those who live near streams that have spring floods in the past.
The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service isn’t forecasting the Yakima River to get into a hazardous flood stage, but high water may occur in some locations.
Several creeks go right through Ellensburg, Bollinger said.
Neighborhoods near Wilson Creek, which runs right under parts of downtown Ellensburg, might deal with flooding when exposed potions of the creek are running high, just as Mercer Creek did over the weekend, he said.
Other years, lingering ice blocked the flow of water on Mercer Creek and caused flooding.
This time, Bollinger said, snow melt from last weekend’s warm temperatures combined with extra irrigation run off probably caused the creek to swell.
“Like I said, every time it’s a little bit different,” he said.
Bollinger said one of the culverts underneath the flooded area might have been too narrow for the flow of water.
When it comes to modifying a stream’s flow, public works director John Akers said, it’s usually best to start down stream and work up.
If the underground culverts and channels around Parklane Avenue were magically widened sometime before last week’s high water, it would have meant flooding somewhere else.
Barring the whole city picks up and moves a dozen miles, Akers said, the intermittent flooding probably isn’t going to change.
Akers said the flooding was somewhat unusual in that Naneum Creek, from which Mercer and Wilson creek flow, wasn’t as high as he’d have expected for the kind of flooding seen.
Several valley irrigation companies started pumping water that weekend as well, Akers said, and water draining from fields into area creeks and streams likely contributed to the higher water levels.
“That water is going to go somewhere,” Bollinger said. “Some of it will end up back in the creeks.”