Boots on the Ground: WCC responds to severe flooding in Eastern Washington

This past weekend, we deployed several Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crews to help the towns of Okanogan, Tonasket, and Cusick after rain, high daytime temperatures and significant snowpack melt caused severe flooding in Okanogan, Pend Oreille, and Ferry counties.

A group of AmeriCorps volunteers gather in front of a large sand pile they are using to make sand bags.

WCC members and volunteers filling sandbags at 5 a.m. in Okanogan.

Our WCC AmeriCorps members and crew supervisors spent about 16 hours Saturday, May 12, assisting community efforts to fill, stack and place sandbags to keep floodwaters out of people’s homes.

On Friday, May 11, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a state of emergency to make resources available as flooding and high-risk conditions continue. A total of 20 Eastern Washington counties face potential flooding.

When local disasters such as flooding occur, local and tribal government partners and state officials often request on-the-ground assistance from our WCC.

We currently have two WCC crews deployed to Tonasket and three to Okanogan in Okanogan County. Another crew is serving in the town of Cusick in Pend Oreille County.

A WCC member fills and loads sand into green bags stacked on pallets.

WCC members getting sandbags ready in Tonasket.

A seventh WCC crew is being deployed to the Okanogan County Fairgrounds in Okanogan to set up and manage a camp base for our response partners at the state Department of Natural Resources.

On Monday afternoon, water levels remained lower than the flooding levels experienced on Friday and Saturday. However, the National Weather Service is predicting a second flood crest later this week that could be higher than the first as hot weather drives more snowmelt to different river systems in Eastern Washington – especially the Okanogan, Similkameen, Kettle, and Pend Oreille rivers.

The WCC provides hands-on experience, field skills, and training opportunities to young adults between 18 and 25 and military veterans. Our 300 members and 53 field supervisors across the state restore critical habitat, build trails, and protect the state’s natural, historic and environmental resources. They also respond to out-of-state and local disasters.

WCC disaster response program

Our WCC crews have responded to local floods, wildfires, oil spills and landslides and have also been deployed to provide disaster relief and recovery assistance for communities affected by floods, hurricanes and tornadoes around the nation. Four WCC crews are designated disaster response crews but any crew has the potential to be deployed.

  • Members and staff are trained to safely and effectively:
  • Clean up homes, roads and structures
  • Install emergency repairs such as roof tarps
  • Manage volunteers and donations
  • Remove hazard trees and debris
  • Set up and operate emergency shelters

Learn more about WCC

Ecology's Washington Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps program, consists of three subprograms: the original WCC, Veteran Conservation Corps and Puget SoundCorps. We are currently recruiting for three-month AmeriCorps members positions. Recruitment for the 2018-19 year will begin in July! See photos of the types of projects WCC members support during their service in our WCC Projects Flickr set and WCC Featured Projects Story Map. Learn more and apply online today.