KENT—In downtown Kent, there is a facility that focuses on the most fragile among us. At Pediatric Interim Care Center, nurses take care of babies who have been exposed to drugs taken by their mothers during pregnancy.
While there is always concern about the health of the newborns, now there is also concern about what is happening outside the center, on the sidewalks and the streets.
"I think we're all going to worry when we see it rain this year," said Elaine Purchase, a development director at the center.
For the second year in a row, people who work and live near the Green River are preparing for floods. Rising waters have been a threat since January of 2009, when the Howard Hanson Dam was damaged by heavy rains.
The federal government is spending millions in emergency funds to fix the dam, but the repairs won't be completed until 2012.
So Kent is still surrounded by sandbags. You can even find them outside the local dentist office.
"We were considering raising the building," said Dr. Kenneth Johnson. " But we decided on sandbags, and as it turned out, that was the best choice."
That's because last winter was mild, and despite the warnings, the river never went above flood stage.
Mamie Brouwer at the US Army Corps of Engineers said the repairs made so far at the dam have helped, but if this winter is a rainy one, there is still the potential for floods.
The caretakers at the pediatric center are not taking any chances. They've installed a concrete wall that wraps around the entire building. They also monitor a flood watch radio, and in case of evacuations, nurses have special vests so they can carry four baby's at once.
Purchase believes, "with the preparations that we've made, if anything happens, we'll be able to keep our babies safe."