SOUTH PARK FLOODING: What city departments have done since ‘absolutely extraordinary event’

(Reader photo, South Park on December 27)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

With more than four dozen South Park homes and businesses suffering “substantial damage” in flooding two weeks ago, a City Council committee convened a briefing Tuesday morning. They heard city departments recount what they’ve done since what one speaker described as an “absolutely extraordinary event.”

The City Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee also wanted to know what’s being planned in case the Duwamish River has another disastrous spillover – particularly, what’s being done to prevent a potential repeat during winter’s final “king tides” in less than two weeks.

Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell led the multi-department delegation. Here’s the full slide deck that was shown, and you can watch the video starting 1 hour, 6 minutes in:

Key numbers: 49 homes and businesses “have substantial damage.” 14 agencies are involved in the response/recovery operation. In the city response, the Office of Emergency Management is helping with some on-scene work, but Seattle Public Utilities and Human Services are most involved. They’re working with King County to find “funding opportunities,” possibly from the state. But they repeatedly stressed the importance of the community-based organizations that are involved, especially the Duwamish River Community Coalition.

SPU deputy director Keri Burchard-Juarez said SPU had sandbags and an advance contract with Just Health Action. But forecasters did not predict that the river would overtop its banks so “we really weren’t prepared” for that. But it happened, and they worked to provide emergency housing for up to 15 families, as well as setting up a trailer and tents (as we reported last week), plus portable showers, toilets, and laundry facilities.

(WSB photo, last week)

They’ve moved on to focus on cleanup, including inside people’s homes, and the focuses this week also include hazardous-materials mitigation. They had a community meeting with flood victims last weekend and will have another within a few weeks.

Regarding preparing for the next king tide – it’s predicted to be two feet lower than December 27th, but the wild card would be a low-pressure storm system causing a similar situation. SPU will implement an Incident Command Structure, will monitor weather very closely, will have an on-site presence. They’ve also observed several locations along river where it overtopped and will strategically place sandbags there, as well as trying to get a berm installed at one location, an under-construction pump station, 8th, Chicago. “Putting in as many precautions as possible.”

What happened “was absolutely extraordinary” and yet they’ve known something like this was coming, city reps acknowledged. They’ve been working for five years to develop a “resiliency district” for the Duwamish Valley, including South Park and Georgetown. They’ve been looking at property acquisition along the river. They know there will be “future investment needs.” SPU has already been working on a road improvement and drainage project. And they’ve worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a cost-benefit analysis for more potential work.

The Human Services Department talked about assistance for flood victims, including collaboration with the community organizations and check-ins “every 24 to 48 hours” with the affected people, plus ensuring they have housing and food.

When does the housing assistance expire? asked City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the committee. HSD told her it’s now been extended until at least the end of the month. The homes are being evaluated for safety – mold, asbestos, etc. She also wanted to know from SPU, how much more studying needed to be done before action is taken: “We don’t always have to do things sequentially, we can do them simultaneously.” SPU general manager Andrew Lee explained that his mention of a “feasibility study” to be done was not redundant with previous work such as the cost-benefit analysis. That analysis, he added, shows a “high benefit” from doing certain flood-control work, so this will evaluate the options more closely. Meantime, the city is meeting with the congressional delegation to talk about potential federal funding.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: This wasn’t part of the discussion, but you can still support the community groups who also are working with the flood victims – find links and info here.

6 Replies to "SOUTH PARK FLOODING: What city departments have done since 'absolutely extraordinary event'"

  • David January 11, 2023 (9:27 am)

    It has always flooded along the Duwamish – my parents told stories of flooded parking lots at Boeing during WW2 and jokes that it was so deep that enemy submarines were spotted in the lot.

    • Lagartija Nick January 11, 2023 (11:39 am)

      It has not “always” flooded along the Duwamish in this area. And the fact that you had to reach all the way back to WWII for an anecdote to make your point shows your statement to be false. And while the Duwamish has flooded before this was an unprecedented event that seriously affected people’s homes and lives. I don’t understand your need to minimize this event.

  • Rick January 11, 2023 (1:48 pm)

    Nick, much like my wife has a need to always know everything and always be right. Way of life for some.

  • SL January 11, 2023 (4:40 pm)

    I’ve been waiting for someone to share a South Seattle map showing exactly where the Duwamish overflowed its banks, and where the affected homes are. I’ve not seen one yet in either the Times or broadcast local news. Possible for the blog to show one? Awful situation for those who live in that area.

    • WSB January 11, 2023 (5:17 pm)

      If you follow our link to see the slide deck, there’s a map of parcels in there.

  • Rusty January 13, 2023 (9:01 am)

    My business has been in Southpark for 15 years.It has flooded once in that period, prior to this most recent  event. Both these events happened after an extensive drainage improvement project concluded after almost a year of construction, whic required tearingbup the street. It was extremely disruptive and difficult for my business.Not sure i buy this King tide explanation. Very much wondering how such a huge, expensive drainage project failed to protect the area.  Both the flooding events occurred after completion of the drainage project.”Oops”.

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