As flood waters began to recede Thursday on the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers in east King County, baffled scientists are attempting to understand the strange unpredictable phenomenon that caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to area residents.
Dozens of homes, businesses, and roads throughout the small towns of Carnation, Duvall, Enumclaw, Fall City, North Bend, Skykomish and Snoqualmie were flooded this week as heavy rains caused local rivers to rise above their banks in what scientists describe as “a bizarre and incredibly unlikely combination of events.”
“We’re really at a loss to explain exactly what happened here,” said Donald Jonagold, a Seattle-based climatologist with the National Weather Service. “Who could ever have predicted that building homes and even whole towns near a river could one day result in something like this?”
Perplexed residents had similar questions as they took refuge in Red Cross shelters.
“Heavy rains in the fall are so uncommon here in western Washington,” said Tom Evans, whose Carnation home lies just 500 feet from the Tolt River. “There was really just no way we could have prepared for this.”
While they are still in the early stages of their investigation of the week’s events, weather experts have offered several possible explanations for the surprising turn of events.
Jonagold described the prevailing theory as of Thursday morning. “We have run some tests—pouring buckets of water down hills and so forth,” explained Jonagold. “Our best guess is that this flooding has something to do with the strange and unique interaction between water and gravity—but right now it’s still pretty unclear.”
Meanwhile, local residents can only return home and hope that the elements that combined to bring about this surprising incident are not repeated.
“This was probably a random, one-time thing,” said Evans. “I’m sure it’s safe to assume that it won’t happen again.”