City officials discuss flood aftermath, ways to prepare for future incidents

Pullman Police Chief says they handled 14 flood-related calls, 19 businesses estimated to be damaged



Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins says officers handled 14 flood-related calls during the flood earlier this month.

GEORGE ERALIL, Evergreen reporter

City officials reported on the flood that occurred earlier this month and discussed ways to prepare for similar incidents in the future at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

Clayton Forsmann, Pullman’s deputy public works director, categorized the incident as a prime example of a flash flood.

The South Fork Palouse River, which feeds Missouri Flat Creek, is fitted with gauges that collect stream flow data for the National Weather Service, Forsmann said.

“Leading up to this event, the predicted values [from the gauges] did not suggest any level of flooding in Pullman,” Forsmann said. “It truly did catch us off guard.”

Forsmann said the Pullman’s Maintenance and Operations (M&O) staff shut off wells located at the intersection of North Grand Avenue and Northwest Ritchie Street in response to the flood. They subsequently performed sand-bagging activities at the well houses, traffic control operations for closed portions of the road and flood wall installations.

The crew also cleaned North Grand Avenue once the water levels receded, he said, and the road had reopened by 2:30 a.m.

“Overall, we learned a great deal from the event,” Forsmann said. “Since then, we’ve also held a few brief meetings to discuss the event in more detail, document it and use the information to help with planning for future events.”

Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said the fire department received multiple calls from people who were trapped in buildings and businesses in and around North Grand Avenue.

He said the fire department, with the help of the Pullman Police Department and the public works department, promptly assisted the trapped individuals, which even included infants and people with medical conditions.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said officers in the police department handled a total of 14 flood-related calls between 6:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. He said the department’s drone pilots employed drones to get extra footage of the flooded areas.

Jenkins said a total of 19 businesses were estimated to be damaged by the event. Of those 19 businesses, 10 have been listed as extensively damaged.

He said they are working with Pullman’s City Administrator Adam Lincoln to set up a temporary business administration to assist and provide resources to impacted local businesses.

Mayor Glenn Johnson discussed the possibility of installing monitors, in partnership with the National Weather Service, that would provide real-time feedback to obtain an advance notice.

He said while discussions for this are ongoing, it would entail a maintenance fee of $10,000 a year.

Keegan Otter, ASWSU director of community affairs, discussed a new initiative titled “Keep Cliffs Clean.”

Otter said the initiative is a partnership with multiple Pullman-based organizations and aims to clean up parks at Granite Point, which is a favored recreation spot for many WSU and University of Idaho students.

The initiative is in response to the aftermath of spring 2018 when about 800 pounds of garbage was dumped in the parks by students who went there, he said.

The program intends to schedule cleaning sessions by volunteer groups in spring, summer and early fall, Otter said. A total of five fraternities and seven sororities have signed up for the initiative so far.

Otter said they will also have groups that will empty the seven weighted garbage bins that have been placed all throughout the park. He hopes this will combat the issue as best as possible and help keep the parks clean.

“The tagline that I’ve come up for this to sustain the message is ‘Hold fellow Cougs accountable. Keep our parks safe and sustainable,’ ” Otter said.