Still remember the Toppenish flood of 1996

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Iím looking out the window at new snow falling on more than a foot of settled, packed snow as I write.

Thatís after a total snowfall of about 40 inches so far this winter. Iím wishing it to go away, but not like it did in 1996.

That year, the melting came so fast that it wreaked havoc in Toppenish, where I lived at the time. The water broke the banks of the Yakima River north of Wapato and swept through parts of the Yakama Reservation.

That surge of water is now remembered as the Toppenish flood of 1996. But a big swath of the Yakama Reservation was affected.

Toppenish had not seen a flood in such a long time that some people didnít believe it when they first heard water was coming their way. I didnít believe it, but I kept listening to the radio or TV just in case. It came, all right.

I drove out to see where the water was at about 9 a.m. Fortunately for us, it was contained by the railroad bed of the BNSF on the north side of town.

There were lots of people with trucks, pickups, garden tools and sandbags battling the water. I did not pitch in. Instead, I went to Safeway and bought a bunch of lunch meat, numerous loaves of bread and sandwich spreads.

Back at the house, Pat and I, and Jenny, Berney and Teddy made sandwiches. We loaded them in a yellow and black van we called the bumblebee and headed to the north side.

People were working so hard I started thinking they might not appreciate us not helping. I was wrong. We helped. They ate the sandwiches and got right back to work. We headed to Safeway and prepared for another run of sandwiches.

I donít remember now how much damage that flood caused, but it must have been considerable. An uncleís property, a sister-in-lawís property and another friendís property in Northeast Toppenish had water pooling two to three feet deep. I donít remember how many days the flood lasted. Pat says it was several.

I do remember I was not able to help the second day. I was at the newspaper office writing about the flood of í96.

The flood of í96 was bad for many people in Toppenish, but it was a teachable moment for other people. The people south of the tracks joined those north of the tracks battling to limit property damage. My children got to see what it means to be a community.

According to Accuweather, the highs will be in the 30s through this weekend. Then weíll jump to the 40s for a couple of weeks.

Iíll be happy when the snow is gone, but I hope it goes relatively slowly.

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