Ocean City homeowners see flood damage for the third time in five years

Ocean City residents experienced an all-too-familiar situation last week when flooding damaged homes and left them stranded.

Heavy rainfall in the first week of January, paired with king tides and snowmelt, led to flooding throughout Grays Harbor County. Residents of Ocean City experienced only a brief reprieve before rain returned late last week, leading to sporadic road closures and standing water in several residential lots.

“We’re like an island out here, no one can get in or out,” said resident Linda Wagner.

Following hazardous water-over-road conditions on State Route 109, which runs through Ocean City, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) made the decision to close the route in order to protect drivers and help preserve flooded homes nearby.

“There were several areas along SR 109 where our crews witnessed 18 inches of standing water, and we had to close the road for safety,” said WSDOT Olympic Region Public Information Officer Christina Werner. “We try to avoid closing roads as much as possible, because we realize how important they are to the community, but in this case it was just not safe to let people drive.”

While January’s weather has spelled disaster for much of Grays Harbor County, according to Wagner, the flooding of the last two weeks is not an isolated incident for Ocean City residents. While she has been fortunate enough to experience no damage to her home, her brother and sister-in-law, who live nearby, have had their home flooded three times in the past five years.

“There are five homes that I know of, just in this area right here, that have experienced flood damage. One house in particular has been flooded three times this month,” she said.

While residents attempted to protect valuables by moving them onto blocks, many were shocked by the high water levels, and some had no time to prepare for the quick inundation that occurred.

Robert Jonas, who has had a property in Ocean City for about three years, was forced to relocate to higher ground when water began to creep into his house.

“I had to move everything off the floors,” he said. “I brought in a dehumidifier to dry things out, and I’m marking all the damage with the water levels and moisture levels.”

While some residents like Jonas are employing SERVPRO, a company that specializes in the cleanup and restoration of residential and commercial spaces after incidents like water damage, others are spending hundreds of dollars to purchase air dryers and clean up the damage themselves.

“We noticed that the water just continued to get higher and higher around us. The road was all under water, everyone was under water at some point,” said Jonas.

The primary source of flooding came from Connor Creek, which is prone to flooding during times of heavy rainfall and overflowed last year during last year’s atmospheric rivers. While Jonas is unable to see the creek from his property, he was aware that water was creeping in from the woods where the creek is located.

“Every year it just seems to get worse and worse. When the water starts rising, even after the rain stops, something must be causing the creek to overflow its banks,” he said.

According to Werner, WSDOT is aware of the unique threat that nearby rivers pose to the stretch of SR 109 that runs along the coast.

“Our crews have seen repeated issues with standing water over the roadway. A lot of that is attributed to the fact that it is a highway that runs parallel to the ocean, but the run of Moclips River under and around the highway also contributes to a lot of woody debris backup,” she said.

Copalis River Bridge near Copalis Beach was reduced to a single lane road on Jan. 4, as WSDOT crew members worked to remove woody debris from the bridge structure that accumulated following heavy snow storms and rain at the end of last month. According to Werner, WSDOT will continue to respond to debris buildup and is working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to find an environmentally-friendly solution to the flooding of Connor Creek.

“We have continued, and will continue, to have these conversations with our agency partners,” she said. “We hope to walk Connor Creek with WDFW to figure out what the most cost-effective and appropriate solution would be.”

WSDOT maintenance crews, who live and work in the area, have faced difficulty maintaining the stretch of SR 109 from Ocean City to Taholah due to long stretches of heavy rain and snow in recent weeks.

“If there’s anything that can be done with the stream, we have to include agency partners, so we have been and will continue to work with them to make any potential repairs,” said Werner.

While most of the water had subsided by this week, the recent flooding has renewed residents’ frustrations over the frequency of such events. According to Wagner, Ocean City residents are prepared to sign a petition in order to get maintenance to occur in Connor Creek.

“If we could get some assistance cleaning that creek out, it’s affecting all of Ocean City, not just that neighborhood,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get assistance for years, and now it’s at the point that it’s worse than it’s ever been.”

Some Ocean City residents have experienced consistent flooding in recent years when Connor Creek reaches high levels. Photo courtesy of Linda Wagner