Sean Hayes’ work started a half hour before the rain stopped on Monday, and he hasn’t stopped yet.
“We’ve responded to about 60 calls,” the owner of Emergency Response Restoration said Tuesday. “We’ve been out and about since 7:45 p.m. We’ve been working all through the night and rotating sleep between myself and my other manager.”
The sudden storm that pounded the Mid-Columbia electrified the Tri-Cities with 300 lightning strikes Monday night and drenched residents with as much as an inch and a half of rain. Wind speeds reached 68 mph.
Floodwaters damaged dozens of homes and at least one church and stranded motorists in flooded roadways.
Lightning sparked 86 reports of fires to the Southeast Communications Center, including a dramatic blaze that demolished a home in the 1400 block of Meadow Hills Drive in south Richland.
Hayes expects the storm damage is extensive, since his small Kennewick company normally receives calls after its larger competitors place a person on a waiting list, he said. Most of his business is coming from south Richland and west Kennewick, where water flowed down large hills and into basements.
“There was so much water that the storm drains and ground could not handle it,” he said. “I saw no less than a dozen water pump trucks cleaning water from the streets last night.”
I saw no less than a dozen water pump trucks cleaning water from the streets last night.
Sean Hayes, Emergency Response Restoration
It was a story repeated by Marissa Olguin, at 1st Choice Restorations, who said crews started responding to calls for flooding and fallen trees beginning at 7 p.m.
“We do have a high volume and they’ve been continually coming in throughout the day,” she said. “We anticipate it to stay busy throughout the next couple of days.”
Both companies expect the calls will continue to come in for the next week as people begin to notice missing roofing tiles and dripping ceilings.
Moisture from the south combined with heat exceeding 100 degrees and an upper-level low pressure system to form the storm, said Dennis Hull, a National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist.
“The lack of any one of those would have made the storms not as strong,” he said.
The driving wind and lightning strikes contributed to about 5,400 customers in Kennewick, Richland and West Richland losing power.
The wind knocked down a pair of utility poles in the area of Olympia Street and 45th Avenue in Kennewick, while lightning strikes darkened homes in the Rancho Reata neighborhood and in the area around the Benton County Fairgrounds, said Karen Miller, communications manager for Benton PUD.
The amount of rain received in the short amount of time is what caused the flooding.
Hollie Logan, city of Richland
In Richland, a combination of lightning and wind darkened homes and businesses across the city, said Hollie Logan, the assistant city manager.
Almost all of the Benton Rural Electric Association members left in the dark were West Richland residents living north of Van Giesen Street, said spokesman Troy Berglund. The wind downed one power pole and power lines in the area.
Richland Energy Services, Benton PUD and Benton REA reported power was restored to most homes before the sun rose.
The rain overwhelmed stormwater systems in Kennewick and Richland, causing flooding on Columbia Park Trail, Gage Boulevard, Center Parkway, Canal Drive, Keene Road, Duportail Street and off Steptoe Street in the area of Gage Boulevard.
The flooding stranded at least two cars on Gage Boulevard. There was a very large pool at the intersection of Seventh Place and Texas Street.
300 lightning strikes in Tri-Cities
1 inches of rain
86 reported fires
West Richland officials were not available to comment about the damage or the flooding.
Richland’s Logan and Kennewick spokeswoman Evelyn Lusignan said the stormwater systems simply weren’t designed to handle the amount of water coming down.
“The amount of rain received in the short amount of time is what caused the flooding,” Logan said. “Meadow Springs golf course reported an inch and a half of water in less than three hours. This exceeds the design standard for most of the stormwater infrastructure in our region.”
While some improvements are needed to Kennewick’s stormwater utility, Lusignan said there was not enough capacity to handle the water coming down Monday evening, and it’s more important to make sure the water is contained and drains quickly.
Crews in both cities worked through the night clearing the roads and draining the standing water left. Kennewick’s were dried by Tuesday morning and the water receded from Richland’s by the afternoon.
The flooding doesn’t appear to have permanently damaged the roads in Kennewick, Lusignan said. City Council members are scheduled to hear a presentation about the stormwater system during a July 11 workshop scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
While some people were emptying basements of water, others took the opportunity to break out their inner tubes and kayaks.
Kennewick resident Jamie Blazina watched the water push up storm drain grates until it was knee=deep in front of her home off Deschutes Avenue.
Her three kids — Payton, 10, Grace, 8, and Lily, 7 — decided to make the best of the situation. They grabbed the neighbor’s kayak.
“It was a really good memory,” she said. “It’s not every day that your road floods and you get to kayak in the street.”