By Eric Rosane / [email protected]
Jim Hoerling, 71, has seen it time and time again.
“It’s typical when it rains too much, after having had a fairly good snowfall,” said the longtime Centralia resident. âAnd that’s just one of those things. I’ve seen it a few times – you just watch the water go up and then it go back down.
The “it” in question flooded China Creek.
On Thursday morning and late afternoon, the creek swelled and inundated downtown roads, sidewalks and parts of the historic Edison district. Sandbags were piled up outside local businesses and the town hall. It was the first blow in what should be a historic flood weekend.
From the sidewalk near his home along Pine Street, Hoerling spent Thursday afternoon watching vehicle after vehicle cross 3-foot deep water at the intersection of Pine Street and Iron Street.
How many vehicles, precisely, did he see?
” Too much. I have seen a lot of 4x4s seeing how high they can spray the water. I saw a commercial bus drive through, pushing water against the bumper. It’s very interesting and somewhat entertaining, but disgusting to a lot of people because you shouldn’t be here playing in the water anyway, âsaid Hoerling, perched under his blue and white umbrella.
Hoerling said he was not too worried about the flooding this year on his property and the neighboring morgue with his namesake, although he knows some neighbors could be in dire straits this weekend.
China Creek is likely to experience sustained flooding throughout the weekend as additional rainfall – including up to 5 inches between Thursday and Friday in the Twin Cities – floods the region.
âWe are just preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,â said Kim Ashmore, Director of Public Works for the City of Centralia. âRight now, if I look at 5 inches in the next 24 hoursâ¦ Yeah, we’re going to have more additional flooding. How does this compare to other floods? I am not sure.”
But Ashmore said he hopes there will be less rainfall in the next few days so that the water from China Creek downtown can begin to recede.
The mid-section of China Creek that leads downtown is currently in the final stages of redevelopment by the City of Centralia to reduce flooding in the downtown area. These Phase 2 upgrades created a flood control zone, sculpted drainage basins, redeveloped ponds, and installed log jams; phase 1 focused on upstream efforts near Little Hanaford Road.
The city originally aimed to have the improvements made in time for the flood season, but challenges delayed the finished product.
Ashmore said they are still awaiting a delivery of steel for a flow control spillway that will bring water to the city center, as well as many fiberglass dams. With eight weeks of installation work, phase 2 could be completed by the end of March.
Despite its incomplete nature, Ashmore said both projects are producing positive results on China Creek. Water is prevented from flooding the city center, he said. Without the upgrades, Thursday’s downtown water might have been several inches higher than it was.
“I was impressed with the amount of water stored with this cofferdam structure which was not complete,” he said. “But I was also impressed that it hasn’t stopped raining since 10pm last night.”