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Emergency Managers Move Into 'Defense Mode' As Flood Outlook Changes

Emily Schwing/Northwest News Network
The flooded Okanogan River flowing through downtown Omak, Washington.

A week ago, forecasters were predicting the Okanogan River might crest this weekend near a record flood mark set back in 1972. Now, emergency managers are moving into “defense mode” and are now predicting somewhat lower water levels.

That’s because the cooler weather is expected in the coming days, according to the National Weather Service, which will likely slow snowmelt in the mountains.

But there is some uncertainty since forecasters are not sure how much snow has already melted or how much more might come down from Canada. 

Equipment and personnel that are no longer needed for flood response are being released, but emergency management teams plan to remain in Okanogan County at least through the weekend. They’re working to strengthen the sandbag barriers they’ve been building all week to protect homes and critical infrastructure. Managers are also concerned about water-saturated ground that could cause instability. 

A flash flood watch is also still in effect as thunderstorms and rain move through the region. Evacuation advisories issued by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville for at least eight homes in East Omak also remain in effect.

Deborah is an award–winning radio and television journalist whose career spans more than three decades. As the recipient of a 2018-2019 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, Deborah is currently focusing her reporting on adolescents and mental health.