Jay Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee speaks on Wednesday, Nov. 17 in Ferndale after visiting Everson and Sumas following major flooding early last week. (Brent Lindquist/Ferndale Record)

Officials will seek federal aid

FERNDALE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee visited Whatcom County on Wednesday, Nov. 17, making a stop at Ferndale’s WTA station on Main Street. Inslee spoke to the media with the flooded station parking lot as a backdrop.

“It’s frankly something I didn’t appreciate until I came here and saw it,” Inslee said.

Inslee surveyed the damage in Sumas and Everson before he visited Ferndale.

“I have seen folks who were rescued in front-end loader buckets, folks who were rescued by fast-water rescue personnel who sat on tops of their cars for five hours; we’ve had a very unfortunate loss of one life. Frankly, it’s extremely good fortune that there has not been more loss of life in this community,” he said.

The flooding topped all-time flood levels in certain locations, Inslee said, and it exceeded some of the models available. He said the government will examine the models to see what it can learn about this and future flood events.

“It was acres of moving water at maybe four to six knots. People were in the middle of a river that was a berry field the day before,” he said.

Inslee said there are two federal money pools that can help residents with the recovery process. He emphasized the importance of documenting damage and reporting it to local municipalities.

“This is something that takes some time and we just need to compile that information,” he said.

Ferndale mayor Greg Hansen was on hand with Inslee, County Executive Satpal Sidhu and State Rep. Alicia Rule.

In an interview with the Record on Friday, Hansen said the next step for the city is a debrief, looking at what was done both right and wrong and examining how it can do better next time.

Hansen estimated that about three dozen homes were impacted by the flooding.

“While that’s significantly less than our neighbors upstream, that’s still significant to those who were impacted,” Hansen said.

The city is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see about getting federal money to assist in the recovery. It’s an active process, Hansen said, and much of it gets coordinated through Whatcom Unified Command.

“The whole region will collect all of that information in the hopes that we meet the benchmark for that,” Hansen said. “It’s also going to involve the governor working to declare this area a disaster area to be eligible.”

Inslee and Hansen both mentioned the Whatcom Community Foundation’s Resilience Fund, which includes a pool of matching funds to support gifts made to the fund for local emergency flood response and assistance.

According to the foundation’s website, all individual donations will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $115,000.

Inslee said at Wednesday’s press conference that the fund had already received $200,000.

Hansen said local cities are relying heavily on outside organizations to lead recovery efforts, as many of them are not necessarily within the purview of local cities.

He said he’s proud to be a resident of Ferndale following the outpouring of community support to those affected by the floods.

“As a lifelong resident of Ferndale, I couldn’t be more proud of this community. As always, when there’s a big need, our community steps up in a huge way,” Hansen said. “It happens every time and I think that’s what makes Ferndale such a special place.”

Lummi Nation Chairman William Jones Jr. released a statement Nov. 19 speaking to the Lummi response to the flooding.

“We raise our hands to the Lummi community for your patience during this difficult time,” Jones wrote.

According to the statement, the Lummi Nation declared an Extreme Weather Emergency Nov. 14 due to flood warnings and worsening conditions.

“Nothing will ever fully prepare our community for such disasters, but with good teamwork, we have come together in these trying times and have made tremendous headway,” Jones wrote.