Big Wood River rising again: 'It is exhausting, it's frustrating, people are getting tired'

Hailey residents prepare for rising water.

HAILEY - The Big Wood River is rising again: it is currently just under 7 feet - which is moderate flood stage - and flowing 5,250 cubic feet per second (cfs). It is expected to rise to 7.8 feet on Friday, which is close to major flood stage level of 8 feet.

The Della View area along the Big Wood River in Hailey has been flooding for nearly a month; water continues to overrun streets and people's property. City officials are warning people to stay out of the area, as the flood waters are dangerous.

War Eagle Drive, a street parallel to the river, looks and sounds like the rushing river, but it is actually a road with houses along it. Flood water is rushing quickly through the street at about a foot high, and will continue to rise over the next couple days.

"It is exhausting, it's frustrating, people are getting tired," one Della View resident, Ben Barbre, said. "It has been an ongoing 24/7 process."

RELATED: Community comes together amid Hailey flooding evacuations

Barbre says he and his neighbors are preparing for Friday's surge. At this time, his garage is flooded out and he has about seven pumps going in his crawl space to prevent water from coming into his house. He tells KTVB his home has been without electricity and running on a generator for 26 days straight. Layers of sandbags and Visqueen surround his home, like most homeowners affected by water.

"We are protecting it. We are fighting. We keep fighting - we've got to. no one else will," Barbre said. "I am here for the long haul, and I am going to do everything I can to stay in my home and to protect my home because that's everything I worked for."

Hailey Fire Chief Craig Aberbach says mandatory evacuations are now in place for 50 properties in this area. Several homes have no power and are completely inaccessible.

The chief says one of the main reasons for mandatory evacuations is that emergency personnel likely won't be able to get to people in those inundated areas if they're needed.

"If we can't see the road, we shouldn't be driving on the road," Aberbach said.

RELATED: Mandatory evacuations expand in Hailey

Because the ground has been saturated for so long and water continues to come up from underneath, toppling trees are also posing major hazards, so first responders are monitoring downed trees on top of expanding flood waters.

"A tree could come down any time. It doesn't have to be in the flood area, it could be several blocks up," Aberbach added. "The ground water is still coming up, making these cottonwood trees very susceptible to falling over. And we had a number of them come over in this area already."

People who live near the river have been preparing for flooding for months after being pounded with so much snow this winter. They say they just didn't expect it to come so early or last so long. Amidst the frustration, homeowners and city officials have to prepare for what's still come: recovery efforts.

"Now that we are at the peak of the flood event, we are scheduling meetings for recovery efforts," Chief Aberbach told KTVB. "Recovery is going to take a whole lot longer and we are trying to gear up for that now, getting resources in place to help the impacted residents in the area."

"To get contractors here to try and mitigate, get everything out of the house, all the mold and everything. It's going to take time, it's going to take effort. And it's going to be a long road," Barbre added.

At this point, the chief says Blaine County and the City of Hailey have distributed about 60,000 sandbags to people in need.

City officials say they expect to be above flood stage for the next five days. It was hot and sunny on Wednesday, and the forecast shows a cooldown on Thursday but a warming trend Friday through Sunday.

There is still a lot of snow up high in the mountains that needs to melt and that has the potential to cause flooding for the next two to three weeks. The way it comes off the mountain is all dependent on the weather; if it's warm, the snow will melt more rapidly and add to the problem.

Chief Aberbach says people affected by evacuations have been staying with family and friends. Over the last month, the community has supported one another and come together to help their neighbors protect their homes and property.

Chief Aberbach says two Red Cross shelters in Hailey are on standby and ready to open at a moment's notice.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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