Record snow, serious flooding left Seattle area cut off from Washington state, country

Pass Snoqualmie? Closed.

Stevens Pass? Closed.

White Pass, Blewett Pass, and Interstate 5? Closed, closed and closed.

For much of Friday, record snow in the Cascade Mountains and severe flooding in Chehalis. River Basin closed nearly all major road and rail routes connecting the Seattle area to much of the state and the rest of the country.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation on Friday afternoon, citing extreme weather conditions, dangerous driving conditions, road closures and flooding. The proclamation directed state agencies to mobilize resources in connection with local jurisdiction and activated the National Guard and the State Guard to provide assistance.

“We’ve had so much snow in the mountains and also river floods” in the lowlands, plus landslides and high winds in some places, Samantha Borth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said Friday afternoon. “It’s a pretty unique situation.”

Although a 20-mile stretch of I-5 between Grand Mound and Chehalis reopened Friday afternoon, thanks to receding floodwaters, authorities said the crossings would likely remain closed until Sunday.

Meanwhile, closures and the extreme weather conditions that led to them, including risks from avalanches and torrential rain, isolated millions of residents Friday, separating Seattle from Portland and western Washington from eastern Washington.

The last time the region was this isolated was in 1996, when an “atmospheric river” gushed overhead, closing the passes and I-5, said NWS meteorologist Ted Buehner.

This week, there were disruptions at all levels of commerce as international shipments lurked in warehouses, produce waited in trucks and residents delayed trips to the supermarket.

Travel plans were thwarted, hospital operations were complicated, and learning was postponed as Washington State University canceled classes for next Monday and Tuesday to allow students more time to return to Pullman from the west. from Washington.

Heavy rain and snow created problems not only in the passes and around Chehalis in Lewis County, but also in communities in the region.

Floods closed streets in central Issaquah, as residents grabbed sandbags at a community center to protect their property. First responders in Seattle rescued a man as his home was sliding downhill in Magnolia. In eastern King County, some Skykomish residents were trapped in the snow without plowing.

In Wenatchee, stranded Amtrak passengers waited in vain on a snowy train platform for the conductor to call them aboard. Amtrak service between Seattle and Portland was stopped.

After Leavenworth was buried under 36 inches of snow on Thursday, the mayor issued an emergency declaration requesting assistance from the National Guard.

Record rainfall

Rain and snow hit the state in historic proportions this week, setting the stage for rising rivers and avalanche concerns Friday.

The culprit was a warm front that came to a halt in western Washington between Wednesday night and Friday morning, rather than rushing past as usual, Borth said.

The Washington State Department of Transportation reported 26 inches of snow on Snoqualmie Pass from Thursday through mid-Friday, in addition to 280 inches earlier this winter. Winds remained high Friday night, but conditions began to dry out.

Thursday was Seattle’s seventh wettest day in January, with 2 inches of rain recorded at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; another half inch was recorded on Friday.

Hoquiam racked up nearly 6 inches Thursday, setting a record for the county town of Grays Harbor, while Shelton at Mason County accumulated 4 ½ inches. The clouds dumped a record 10 inches of rain over 24 hours in the small town of Rainier, near Olympia.

“All that precipitation” got into the rivers, Borth said. And snow melt from Christmas storms played a role.

Soils were saturated even before the big storm started, he added, blaming that mix for the increase in landslides. The winds whipped through Whidbey Island.

Although the rain continued at times Friday in western Washington, Borth said the big storm had advanced. She predicted showers over the weekend, with some possible sunrises.

“We will have another system (of storms) brushing the area, but nothing compared to what we just saw,” he said. “Sunday looks pretty good, by comparison.”

Road closures

Weather conditions blocked truck routes on Friday, crippling an industry that averages $ 42 million of cargo moved in Washington state each day, including perishable goods like milk.

Members of the National Guard were sent into the floods in Lewis County to fill sandbags. When the stretch of I-5 near Chehalis reopened, all 99 truck parking spaces were taken at the Pilot Travel Center, north of the closure, manager Cynthia Willis said. Some were heading south and others were waiting to head east, over the mountains.

Drivers, many heading to Wyoming or Montana, spent the day waiting quietly in their trucks or eating fast food, said Willis, who was taking reservations as of Monday.

“Everyone is fine, no one is angry. Everybody knows he’s not going anywhere, ”he said.

About 100 miles east and 2,500 feet higher, at Snoqualmie Pass, crews spent Friday on avalanche control tasks. They targeted three large avalanche slides along Interstate 90 west of the pass, using explosives to loosen snow, WSDOT regional spokesperson Summer Derrey said.

The work is carried out by means of cables and semi-permanent pulleys that carry explosives down the slopes. Workers power the system using a bicycle-type machine, something like a ski lift for dynamite.

In addition to those two ramps, crews west of the pass counted 38 natural landslides of snow, ice, rocks and trees, Derrey said, adding: “Our avalanche crew is exhausted; They have been working twenty-four hours a day. “

East of the pass on I-90, workers began plowing the lanes between Hyak and Easton. In at least one location, they scraped two lanes to make ice or mud, a WSDOT video showed. The agency currently has plenty of plow crew, with workers living primarily around Cle Elum and having managed to sleep at home at night, Derrey said.

Limited travel is allowed on I-90, for residents and workers only, between Ellensburg and Cle Elum, where local drivers must pass checkpoints to continue, Derrey said.

Out and about

Caregivers scheduled to work Friday at the Providence hospital in Centralia were called Thursday night, and officials anticipated flooding in the Chehalis Basin would make morning commuting difficult; I-5 is the main route to Providence. The hospital installed cots for those caregivers, spokesman Chris Thomas said.

Although some emergency vehicles were allowed through during the closure of I-5, the Providence emergency department only accepted patients from Lewis County. Out-of-county patients were redirected north or south.

In Issaquah, residents worked from Thursday night to Friday morning to protect their homes with sandbags. At least one apartment building was evacuated after Issaquah Creek spilled onto its banks and into the parking lot below the building.

In another part of the same neighborhood, Dana Zuber’s entire yard was underwater. Perched on the porch of the house where she has lived for 35 years, she described the flood as the worst she had ever seen.

Business owners along Front Street North watched as water hit the sandbags that protected their stores as vehicles sped down the mostly flooded highway. Adam Shaeffer’s Downhill Zone, a bicycle repair shop, was still dry, he said.

The Seattle rescue occurred at a home in Magnolia, on Perkins Lane West. A man was trapped in the basement when the house slid down, according to the Fgo to Department. A woman was able to escape on her own, but a dog died and another disappeared.

The incident appeared to have been caused by heavy rain; the steep slope where the home is located has a history of landslides, said Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the Seattle Department of Building and Inspections.

The deluge caused a sewer overflow in Lake Washington near Medina Park Beach for an hour and a half Friday afternoon.

In Skykomish, Daniel Casey was trying to get the attention of officials, pleading with King County to remove the snow from his street. As of Friday, Casey said that She had been without power and unable to leave her home for several days, relying on a generator to keep her lights on as the snow continued to fall.

“A lot of people up here don’t have money. They don’t have generators, ”he said. “I just hope no one died from this.”

In Leavenworth, a Facebook post from the city said the help of the National Guard was needed to shovel snow, deliver food and monitor residents. The publication said that some places had received 48 inches of snow over two days, “causing concern for the safety of life and the stability of the structure.”

Bothell resident Megan Davis was stranded in Wenatchee on Friday, unable to drive back to the mountains with her husband and two children after a couple of days of winter activities.

“I’ve never seen so much snow in one night, never,” he said.

This report includes information from Seattle Times staff reporters David Kroman, Erik Lacitis and Daisy Zavala, photographer Ellen Banner and The Associated Press.

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