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Centralia, Chehalis Consider What To Do Should Floods Come Again

Elaine Thompson
AP File Photo
I-5 was covered by water when the Chehalis River flooded in December of 2007.

Editor’s note: This story was part of our KNKX Connects broadcast from Lewis County on Aug. 30, 2018. We explored the issues, events and personalities that shaped – and in some cases are still shaping – the cities of Centralia and Chehalis.

The land in west Lewis County is more rolling hillside than steep climb. It’s farmland in a lot of places, forest in others. Centralia and Chehalis sit at the confluence of the Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers.

That presents a risk – one that became all too real on Dec. 3, 2007. People here woke up that Monday morning to massive flooding. I-5 was closed for days, as were the railroads, affecting commerce up and down the west coast.

But more importantly, people lost everything. Homes, businesses and livestock were swallowed up by the water that came fast and without mercy.

It’s been more than a decade since that happened, but leaders are still dealing with the aftermath of the flood. They are trying to figure out how to be ready when the rivers flood again. We spoke with Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, who is also on the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority.

Edna says she hopes people remain vigilant about flooding. But she wants the memory of the flood to fade just enough so that it’s not the first thing people associate with Lewis County.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.