DUVALL–When flooding closed NE 124th for much of last week, many commuters turned to local websites for help, finding most of the crucial information they needed on two sites: The Duvall Police Department’s Facebook page and Jim Gale’s “Duvall Mobile Flood and Snowmaggedan” website http://d.jimgale.net.
Duvall Police Sgt. Lori Batiot, who developed and maintains the police department’s Facebook page, used it to update locals on the traffic situation in town and explain the use of the “traffic pickle” – a hand-held device used by authorities to override traffic signals depending on volumes.
Duvall officers spent countless hours at the Virginia/Main Street intersection doing their best to help drivers move through the intersection using the “pickle,” she said. “It’s just one button that forces the light to the next step,” she said. “But there is still intense volume at that intersection (during a flood).”
The “pickle” is hooked on a cord to the light stand, so officers must stand there for several hours, she said. Basically they are tethered to the pole, but sometimes drivers don’t know what the officers are doing since they appear to be just standing there. Batiot unfortunately happened to be on the receiving end of a driver who stopped her car mid-intersection to yell at her to “do your job!”
“Sometimes they don’t get it,” she said. “But we are there. It does get cold standing out there for such a long time but it does go by fast – we are so busy.”
But there was really no good way to get around the traffic, for those heading west anyway, and many faced hours-long commutes both ways.
To add to it all, at about 8 a.m. Thursday morning, just an hour before NE 124th was clear of water, a collision occurred at a crucial intersection on the west side of the Valley – W-D Road and West Snoqualmie Valley Road. Batiot said she had heard that only minor injuries resulted but traffic was slowed even further until it was cleaned up.
The river crested at 59.5 feet at midweek; at that height flooding is considered to be “major.” However, there were no emergency calls (except for the accident) that the Duvall Fire Department had to respond to, but fire department crews from both Duvall and Carnation put their rescue boats into the flood waters for training.
In the Facebook updates, Sgt. Batiot takes plenty of creative license with Duvall’s unofficial mascot, the giraffe, to “let a bit of sunshine in,” so people can enjoy reading the police department’s Facebook page.
“It’s funny how it’s gone; lots of people send me giraffe graphics now. It’s expanded so much ... it’s pretty nice.”
Duvall-area folks have embraced the giraffe concept since longtime resident Jeremiah Judd, way back in July of 2013, posted a graphic of a giraffe crossing the “animal bridge” built by King County on Redmond Ridge.
“There was a thread on the board with all the folks complaining about what the bridge cost,” Judd explained in an email. “I had just read all the posts and the family and I took a trip to Redmond. As we approached the bridge the ‘light came on’ to take a photo and Photoshop an ‘exotic animal’ on the bridge. Later that day while searching animal pictures I stumbled on a giraffe picture that I felt would work good.
“And so it was born,” he wrote, adding, “I never thought it would take off like it did.”
It sure did. Once Facebook users took a look at the “giraffe bridge” they appeared instantly smitten (at least most of them. Naysayers are quickly told that “It’s just fun”).
Giraffes have taken on all kinds of shapes and forms on postings. Toy giraffes are also featured in their trips around town. A day after NE 124th opened, resident Justin Dice posted a graphic on the Duvall Community Discussion page of dancing giraffes with the jazzy announcement “124th is Open!”
And, speaking of 124th being open, commuters looking for flooding and road updates also depended heavily on Jim Gale’s website which he started a year ago because, he said, there were “so many pieces of information all over the place and I wanted to narrow it down to the Duvall perspective and offer comprehensive flood and traffic information in one spot. People needed to know how to get to work, to see if the bridge (NE 124th) was open or closed. The site maintains itself ... and King County’s live updated information invites me to keep upgrading it.”
Visitors to the site can click to find information on local roads, schools, weather, traffic alerts, the river gauge and projections, traffic cameras and more.
“People find the site useful. They can click on what they want to see. We can only hope that a government agency would be able to make a site like this as well,” he said.
When checking statistics from the site he found that it had received “over 3,000 unique visitors” and “over 1 million requests.”
Gale has received countless “thank yous” from locals on the Discussion Board that show their appreciation for all his efforts.
“The positive feedback has validated what we have done,” he said. “We are not looking for donations; there are no ads; I am just glad it helps everybody. I just want everybody to benefit.”