News

Bremerton survives water nightmare

By CHARLES MELTON

and STEVE DEDUAL

For the Bremerton Patriot

Now that the first blast of torrential precipitation has passed, the sun is shining once again upon Bremerton, but that doesn’t mean that Mother Nature didn’t wreak havoc throughout the city earlier in the week.

Monday’s flooding put city crews in several almost no-win situations as traffic was hampered, roads were closed and numerous buildings sustained water damage.

Here’s the breakdown of the aftermath of the situation, which Bremerton came through relatively unscathed compared to the rest of Kitsap County.

Police and fire

The Bremerton Fire Department activated the Area Command Center to prioritize calls as priority one, two or three, said deputy fire marshal Michael Six. The priority 3 calls are considered not life-threatening and flooding is considered to be a priority three call. On Monday, the BFD responded to 43 priority three calls where people were affected by the weather.

“The fire department staffed a couple of extra units with portable pumps to respond to flooding incidents and other weather related issues,” Six said. “Major concerns of the day included localized flooding, a handful of mudslides and road closures. One of the major concerns during bad weather is the transportation of critical patients to Harbor view in Seattle. If Airlift Northwest cannot fly, then we would transport via the ferry with SR-3 closed. Luckily there were no parties requiring Harborview’s services during the storm. Bremerton Fire and the city as a whole managed quite well.”

The Bremerton Police Department did see a spike in calls, but the general 9-1-1 calls were not above the norms as most of the calls were weather-related, said Lt. Greg Rawlins, a patrol operations officer with the BPD.

“Overall we faired very well,” Rawlins said. “We were pretty lucky.”

Rawlins said officers were able to concentrate their efforts on the safety of Bremerton and its residents. They were able to call in extra officers during the day and early evening hours to assist the Washington State Patrol with rerouting traffic on SR-3, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office with a bridge washout on Chico Way where a mobile home even fell into the creek and damage assessment duties around town.

Many of the officers and staff worked 14 hours on Monday, he said. Traffic was the biggest concern for Bremerton with the closing of SR-3 and the Sherman Heights area because so many people who work in Bremerton live in South Kitsap and needed to get home. The traffic backup in Gorst affected downtown as well.

“When people found out [the Gorst area] was flooded, their next option was the ferry,” said Rawlins. “That caused a mess downtown.”

Overall Rawlins said he was pleased with the way in which this potential disaster was handled.

“Our officers did an outstanding job,” Rawlins said. “I’m very proud of all of them.”

The Bremerton tunnel project

While police officers and firefighters were ensuring the public’s safety, crews working on the Bremerton tunnel project were doing their best to keep things under control.

“We were prepared for this,” WSDOT project engineer Brendan Clarke said Wednesday morning. “At this point if I had to put a number on it, I’d say it puts us a week behind.”

It took until Wednesday morning for all of the water to be pumped out of the tunnel construction zone, and Clarke was quick to thank the city’s public works department for helping construction crews pump out as much water as they could into the city’s sewer system.

“At this point we’re looking at having to bring in some new material to replace some soggy material,” he said. “We’re just shoring things up.”

Roads and sewers

Lower Wheaton Way at Sluy Canyon was the worst hit road in the city as the bulk of the culvert under the road’s surface was lost to the flooding, city public works director Phil Williams said.

“We were able to get two lanes of traffic into the rest of the right-of-way,” Williams said.

However, the permanent repair to the road will take some time and could prove quite costly, Williams warned the Bremerton City Council Wednesday night.

The city’s Westside Wastewater Treatment Facility handles 62 million gallons of untreated sewage on Monday, which set a record for the facility and is something that Williams said he didn’t believe the facility was capable of handling.

A 30-inch sewer pipeline at the intersection of 11th Street and National Avenue broke during the record rainfall, but public works crews were able to repair it quickly and limit the damage, he said.

Two pipelines at the end of East 16th Street were also exposed during the flooding, but crews were able to remedy that situation as well, he said.

For as bad as things were in the city, the city-owned forested lands also sustained significant damage due to the flooding, he said.

“We’ve got 50 miles of roads and six bridges, so there will be a lot of work to do in the coming year,” he said.

While everything was chaotic on Monday, Williams said it made him proud to be the city’s public works director.

“We had over 400 calls and I just couldn’t have been more proud of our people,” Williams said.

Schools

For the most part, the Bremerton School District came through relatively unscathed.

Parents were asked to pick up their children from school Monday afternoon and there was some flooding at the Bremerton Junior High School building, which lead to the movement of the sixth graders in the building to Bremerton High School, BSD community community services coordinator.

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