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Previous estimates have been that 25,000 to 30,000 people in the valley could lose their homes in a major flood but “the number of people who may have to be evacuated could be somewhere on the order of 200,000 to 300,000 if it occurs during the day when people are at work (and at) businesses,” said Hillman Mitchell, Tukwila’s emergency management director.

One of the biggest challenges could be evacuating people around Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, where more than 150,000 vehicles can be parked at the shopping center and other businesses during holidays.

Corps of Engineers officials have said that parts of the river valley could be flooded with 4 to 10 feet of water if heavy rains forced the corps to spill large amounts of water from the dam instead of storing the water behind it.

Buehner, part of a team of officials spreading the word about the possibility of floods in the valley , said Thursday, because of the El Nino weather pattern this year temperatures will be warmer over parts of the Pacific Ocean. “If we’re going to have a significant event (like a flood) it likely will be before the end of the year.”

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