SUMAS, Wash. -- Towns in northwestern Washington devastated by significant flooding were turning their attention to cleaning up the muddy mess as river waters continued to recede.
One of the hardest-hit towns was the small community of Sumas, which hugs the Canadian border in Whatcom County. Floodwaters rushed into town Monday as nearly a foot of rain fell in spots upstream, quickly inundating homes and businesses with as much as 6 feet of water.
The town's mayor said 75% of the city and its homes had some water damage, and hundreds had to be evacuated.
Rushing water also washed out the train tracks that run through town, derailing 12 cars.
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Wednesday, residents began the difficult task of piling up water-logged furniture and household items to be taken to the dump. The city had set up four large Dumpsters around town to aid residents in cleaning up.
"I've lived here since the early 70s, and this is the worst flooding that I've ever seen," said Melanie Demerjian. "It's so heartbreaking seeing these people pull out their stuff and shaking it… it's tough."
Sussana Garfius and her wife were at their boss's house, where water once 5 feet high was still pooled several inches deep on the ground.
"We're trying to help as much as we can," Garifus said. She said they live in nearby Lynden, which wasn't affected by the flood. "But here, everybody is going through hardship… There's a lot of damage in the whole town. It's crazy."
But there were signs of recovery. Power was back on for much of the town Wednesday, though running water was still hit and miss. The Sumas Advent Christian Church was open as a warming place with restroom access.
The church is also providing three meals a day for those who need it and giving out dry goods. About 30-40 residents were staying in shelters.
‘Nothing we've seen before'
Sumas Fire Chief Jerry Debruin told FOX Weather many in the community had been through floods in years past, including a large flood in 1990.
"We were kind of prepared for something that was bigger than two years ago and something similar to '90," Debruin said. "Not prepared for what we got this time as the water came in so fast… and with so much velocity; just nothing we've seen before."
Even areas that were usually dry in floods were "inundated with water in minutes," Debruin said.
But he lauded his community for coming to the help of others, even as their own homes flooded. Many brought their tractors and boats to rescue those still trapped. At one point, he said about 100 people were waiting for help in their rescue queue, and he estimated between 500 and 1,000 people needed assistance getting out of town or to shelters.
But despite the widespread flooding, there were no injuries in town.
"It was just an incredible effort by everybody, and it was humbling to be a part of this rescue," Debruin said. "Seeing the men and women of the community and, of course, the great people in the fire district here."