By BRIAN WALKER
While filling sandbags to stave off further flood damage to her home, Janette Byrne reflected on the exhausting task still ahead.
"We want to live with nature so bad, but she's so strong," Byrne said Thursday at the sandbag staging area on Search Light Lane off Wolf Lodge Creek Road.
The creek, overwhelmed by recent rain and snowmelt, flooded Byrne’s home's crawl space and the rest of her property.
Byrne's husband, Patrick, tried to keep an upbeat attitude despite the roaring water.
"We're going to stop it before it gets to the rest of the house," he said. "I've got a lot of confidence."
What he doesn’t have is flood insurance.
Kootenai County on Thursday declared the area's flooding a disaster. Other parts of the county hit by flooding include Cataldo, Fernan Lake Village, Hayden Lake and the Rathdrum area.
"(The disaster declaration) is due to the repetitive winter storms that caused above-average buildup in the mountains," said Sandy Von Behren, the county's Office of Emergency Management director. "There's water running over roads and into homes and there will still be a threat this weekend."
Coeur d'Alene Press meteorologist Randy Mann said more rain is expected to arrive this afternoon.
"Wind will also increase the flood potential on Saturday," Mann said. "The mountains still have a lot of snow and, when we get rain, that really makes areas susceptible to flooding."
The disaster declaration makes the county eligible to apply for state resources from the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, including workers, supplies, equipment and technical expertise if local resources are exhausted.
"We haven't exhausted local resources yet, but we're getting close and, if we do, this allows us to quickly request state assistance," Von Behren said. "The county, highway and fire districts and Sheriff's Office are collaborating to ensure the public has sand and sandbags to help them protect their property."
Other sandbag staging areas have been set up at Fernan Court and Fernan Lake Drive in Fernan Lake Village and at the Northern Lakes fire stations in Hayden and Rathdrum. If residents in other areas need sandbags they can call the OEM office at 446-1775. Flood information is at http://oem.kcgov.us.
The Byrne family estimates it has applied about 1,000 sandbags to its property in recent days on top of roughly 1,000 more that were left behind by the home's previous owners.
"We put on another layer, then the water comes over," Janette said. "But this is part of living in the forest — just like falling trees."
Patrick said a neighbor of his who has lived in the Wolf Lodge area for 40 years told him this is the heaviest flood during that time.
"Pretty unusual year," Patrick said. "The recent years we had were wimpy."
Ben Mathey, who lives by Wolf Lodge Creek, started sandbagging on Thursday when more rain was predicted for the days ahead.
"It's time to do something," he said, adding the flooding situation is as bad as he has seen it since 1997. "Normally we get a break, but it's been different this year."
Other flood fight efforts include pumping water on the Coeur d'Alene River at Cataldo.
"Latour Creek Road in Cataldo is impassible," Von Behren said, adding water had surrounded at least one home near there.
The river at Cataldo was at 45.92 feet — nearly 3 feet above flood stage — on Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. It was expected to peak at 46.25 feet late Thursday night before receding in the days ahead.
A mudslide closed a lane on East Hayden Lake Road on Thursday morning. Von Behren said there were also reports of water 3- to 4-feet-deep in people's basements in affected areas.
Michelle Becktel, Benewah County's OEM director, said Thursday that Aqua Park in St. Maries was being flooded from the St. Joe River.
"Other than that, everything is still steady," she said, adding she hadn't heard of any homes around St. Maries being flooded. "We're at minor flooding."