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NCW rivers near flood stage after heat, rainfall

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Update 1:55 p.m.: The U.S. Forest Service’s North Fork Salmon Creek Road, Northwest of Conconully, has been closed following a debris slide.


NCW — The Stehekin, Okanogan and Entiat rivers are at or above flood stage today, swollen by Thursday night’s brief but pounding rainstorm and snow melt from 80-degree temperatures Thursday.

The Northwest River Forecast Center shows the Stehekin River at the town of Stehekin at the northwest tip of Lake Chelan flowing just above flood stage, but is expected to dip back below by Sunday.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning through Saturday for the town of Stehekin.

The Okanogan River near Tonasket is nearing flood stage and expected to surpass it by Sunday. The Entiat River near Ardenvoir is slightly above.

No major damage or flooding has been reported from Thursday night’s storm, which deposited approximately one-third to one-half inch of water over much of the region, emergency officials said Friday.

Most of it fell during an intense cloudburst, accompanied by thunder and lighting, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Friday, Laurie Nisbet, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Spokane, said Friday.

Crews continue work to clear and repair two large washouts of Highway 20 between Twisp and Okanogan, Maurice Goodall, Okanogan County emergency manager, said Friday. The washouts have been doubling commute times for hundreds of commuters, travelers and residents for a month.

State Department of Transportation officials are not yet able to say when the highway will be repaired.

Rains washed about 6 inches of woody debris onto a 200-foot swath of a U.S. Forest Service road northwest of Conconully, temporarily stranding several campers at some of five campsites beyond the wash area, Deborah Kelly, Forest Service spokeswoman, said Friday.

Okanogan County crews used a grading machine to clear a path through the debris Friday morning for vehicle traffic, Kelly said.  

Forest Service officials have advised campers in the area to evacuate, given the potential for more rain on soils that are already saturated and possibly unstable. They later closed the road — North Fork Salmon Creek Road — until further notice.

Weather Service officials warn that spring runoff into the region’s rivers and streams is cold and can be life-threatening. Increased flows can push logs and debris downriver, increasing danger to people on land or boat.