This past week has been all too poignant for me. As a farmer and resident in one of many flood plains in WA state, seeing what was unfolding in the Centralia and Chehalis area last week brought me right back to the mid-December Floods of 2007.
That year our valley was spared, much like this year, but in 2007 the Chehalis River ravaged that community. It was a freaky event, that was exacerbated by a mudslide caused by a clearcut. With little to no warning the river left its bank. The losses were significant to both livestock and property. Our family helped with cleaning up a few of the farms in that community. So much pain and resilience and community was on display.
Fast forward a few years and my valley got hit hard. Our farm was spared but, many of our neighbors did not fare as well. It took a week for the water to drain from behind the dikes. It gave the community time to develop a plan and begin the cleanup. Sadly, no, thankfully, what I had learned from helping in Chehalis a few years earlier became important to help my valley get back on its feet.
Fast forward 15 years. We have not had a serious flood for over a decade in the Stillaguamish River Valley and the City of Stanwood (proper) hasn’t flooded since 1956. But this year has not been kind to Whatcom and Skagit County families that were overwhelmed by a deluge of water. And now Lewis County is getting flooded. Flooding is never easy on anyone, but farm families understand the risks and have lived through many floods. There is institutional knowledge that can span 3, 4 or 5 generations.
Joelle and I live in the flood plain, we expect it to flood at some point. The folks who live behind dikes have shorter memories and for good reason, flooding is not very frequent. But when a dike overtops, or heaven forbids breaches flooding becomes very scary and quickly. Or for residents of cities like Sumas or Centralia who also live in the flood plain, but they are slightly higher in elevation and/or protected by dikes the flood risk is not top of mind either. My heart goes out to those folks, the flooding that is happening this year is devasting.
In a strange Irony, I now have two daughters and their families living in the City of Centralia. Both sandbagged their homes. And even though this flood is going to have a significant impact, one daughter commented that it is scary to get a call from the city to evacuate, but still amazing to see the community working together to sandbag and serve one another.
I know all too well that our valley will have its day and I also know that our community will rally just like in Sumas and Centralia to serve and begin to move forward.
Life is full of twists and turns and opportunities to serve and build community happen all the time.