The Rising

Residents evacuated as river overflows on roads

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Mark Kelley, who lives on the Coeur d'Alene River near Enaville, pauses as he stands next to his vehicle in frigid waist-deep flood water Monday as a towing services uses a winch to pull his 1992 Jeep Cherokee up his driveway.

ENAVILLE - When Mark Kelley went to bed Sunday night in his home next to the Coeur d'Alene River Road, he didn't see much water outside that caused him any worry.

When he awoke at daylight Monday, he looked out the window first thing. This time, there was more water in the pasture, but not enough for any real concern, he thought.

He decided to rest just a little more.

"The next thing I know, he was banging on my window," Kelley said of his cousin, Ed Stice. "It just came up real fast."

Too fast for Kelley to get his 1992 Jeep Laredo out of the shop in the back of his property.

By mid-morning, the shop was filling with deep, murky water and the Jeep was almost completely submerged.

The two men quickly moved a few goats and chickens to safety, then turned their attention to the Jeep. It took a few hours, but with the help of a tow truck and 225-feet of cable, they managed to navigate it through four-feet of icy water to the road.

And they never lost their sense of humor.

"It'd be nice if it doesn't go inside the house," Kelley said as he looked at his home, where water was lapping at the front steps and his dog, Chloe, waited and watched.

Kelley just moved into the home near the Bumblebee Bridge in the spring. He said he was shocked at how swiftly the water rose.

"I just haven't lived here long enough to even have a clue," he said.

The Coeur d'Alene River was expected to rise to 46 feet - 3 feet beyond flood stage - late Monday night. It was expected to begin receding this afternoon as temperatures cool into the 20s.

The combination of surprisingly warm weather in the high-40s, melting snow and rain led to a rapidly rising river that overflowed into fields, campgrounds, yards, outbuildings and roads. Logs, stumps, and an array of debris were carried down the fast-running river.

According the Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management, there was moderate flooding in the Cataldo area. There were reports of inundated roads, which include road closures at CCC Road and Latour Creek Road in Cataldo.

"Residents along the Coeur d'Alene River from Cataldo to Harrison can expect low level flooding," a press release said.

The dangerous conditions prompted the Shoshone County Sheriff's Office to close Old Coeur d'Alene River Road from milepost 6 to 16 and go door to door, alerting residents to the risks and urging them to evacuate their homes.

Sheriff Mitch Alexander said there were sections with 3 and 4 feet of water across the road.

"It's real dangerous. Even when you have a four-wheel drive with good clearance, you're hitting the floorboard of your rig," he said.

They planned to keep the road closed until flood waters subside.

"I don't want anybody trying to drive through this high water and get trapped and we have to go rescue them," he said.

One man was trapped in his home when a culvert washed out on Moon Gulch. There were reports of flooding along the St. Joe River, and near Calder, Avery and Murray.

"We have problems from one end of the county to the next," Alexander said as he stood near the Coeur d'Alene River at the Bumblebee Bridge. "This is probably our biggest headache in the county, right here.

There were no reports of injuries, but there was likely to be property damage.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Coeur d'Alene River at Cataldo on Sunday.

Alexander checked the river about 8 a.m. Monday and said it didn't seem too bad.

The situation changed quickly.

"The water came up incredibly fast in a 15-minute period. I knew we were going to have problems then," Alexander said.

About a mile up Coeur d'Alene River Road from the bridge, Richard White was in his hip waders, walking in a few feet of water and trying to keep chairs, gas cans and other items from floating away by stacking them high on picnic tables.

Asked if he needed anything, White smiled and said a cup of coffee, a hot dog and rowboat would be good.

"Sorry, no paddles," his wife, Tracy, yelled with a laugh. "We can get the canoe, though."

Earlier, they towed trailers away from the river's edge, but one RV sat with water just outside the door.

"It came up very quickly," Tracy White said. "Once it started coming up, it just really came up."

"There's a 5-foot fence post pounded in out there that you cannot see at all," she added.

At Albert's Landing, manager Frank Durham was appreciative that the road was closed just past the bar and eatery.

"They can't go farther than here," he said.

It resulted in a few extra customers as people stopped in to talk with friends, survey Mother Nature's might and share pictures of what they had seen.

Durham was one of those evacuated from his home just past the Bumblebee Bridge off Old River Road. He planned to stay in town at least a day or two.

"I barely got in the house. I called my wife and said I'm packing up some stuff, tell me what you need," he said.

Stice, of Pinehurst, said he hasn't seen the river this high since the Ice Storm of '96.

He said he urged Kelley to move to the area from Twin Lakes last year. He thought the property along Coeur d'Alene River Road would be safe from any flooding.

"We knew back in '96 they had a lot of water over there, but that took 100 years for that to happen," he said.

Kelley, who planned to stay with his cousin Monday night, planned to return home once the water falls back.

"I'll just come back and start seeing what I can do with it," he said.

Richard White wades into the rising waters of the Coeur d'Alene River to gather some loose items before they flow downstream.


Huckleberry Palmer, an engineer contracted through the Environmental Protection Agency, steadies a water sampling device into the Coeur d'Alene River as the agency conducts flow and sediment studies during flood stages.


Chloe, the canine pet of Mark Kelley, waits patiently near her home that is surrounded by flood waters of the Coeur d'Alene River.

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