Sources of Flooding in Jefferson County

Are you prepared for potential floods in our community? Jefferson County lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Puget Sound, and has an extensive river stream system which drains water from the Olympic Mountains. Please familiarize yourself with methods that will help to protect you and your property from potential flood damage.

Seasonal Flooding

Flooding in Jefferson County occurs in the winter months. Coastal flooding is caused by storm surges which result from high spring tides and strong winter storm winds. Newspapers have reported wave run up during heavy wind storms in Port Townsend.

The rivers swell during winter months when heavy rains and snowmelt produce the highest runoff flows. The greatest and most frequent flooding occurs at river mouths where the high river waters are held back by concurrent ocean water surges and heavy rains characteristic of winter storms.

Flooding Frequency

The flooding is a frequent occurrence on the plains near the coasts. Between 1938 and 1966 (28 years), the Duckabush River flooded 26 times. Between 1931 and 1982 (51 years), the Dosewallips River flooded 23 times. In 2002, the flooding of Dosewallips changed the river course near Highway 101 (Leader 2003). In 2003, Dosewallips flooded the streets near Brinnon 3.5 feet. In the same flood event, Duckabush flooded the Fire District #4 Station (Leader 2003).

The Big Quilcene River floods every 2 to 3 years. The Little Quilcene River also floods and causes damage. In the 8 years between 1974 and 1982, "Little Quil" has flooded 7 times! The flooding of the Little Quilcene makes some of the roads in the area impassable.

Salmon and Snow Creeks occasionally overflow their banks but cause little damage.

The Bogachiel, Hoh, and Clearwater Rivers flood regularly, and damage is common to roads and bridges. The Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader reported road repairs along the Hoh in 2004.

Jefferson County has been listed in flood-caused National Disasters 8 times in the 23 years between 1982 and 2005. This includes the November 1990 flood which is considered one of the top 10 weather events of the 20th century. Two lives were claimed and $250 million worth of damages was caused in that flood.

Washington State Hazard Mitigation Plan