Rescue workers in the Seattle area were assessing the damage Sunday after torrential rains and heavy snowfall hit much of the region, turning Washington’s largest city into a virtual island. Seattle recorded two inches of rain on Thursday, its seventh wettest January day on record, and last week it placed No.5 on Seattle’s list for its wettest first week in January.
Hoquiam, on the western edge of the state; Olympia; and Quillayute, in the northwest corner of Washington, also saw some of their wettest days on record. Hoquiam received about six inches of rain on Thursday, its highest ever day total, and Rainier, southwest of Olympia, received 10 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Officials in the Skokomish Valley area west of Seattle warn of “imminent flooding,” Thursday ordered residents to evacuate or prepare to take shelter in place for 72 hours.
Clearer skies arrived on Sunday, but some major roads remained closed. Washington’s Emergency Management Division urged drivers to stay away closed roads, saying on Twitter on Saturday night that “first responders continue to rescue people ignoring closed road signs.”
Other parts of the state have also seen closures. Crucial roads that cross the Cascade Mountains and connect the east and west sides of the state have been closed for days due to heavy snowfall: Snoqualmie Pass, the main route through the mountains, was scheduled to reopen on Sunday, according to the State Department of Transportation. The Blewett Pass was also scheduled to reopen for freight travel, but the Stevens and White Passes will take longer to clear customs, the agency said. He was more than a decade since the four passes were closed for an extended period, the agency said.
The Stevens Pass road team said on Sunday there had been a four inch thick “slab of ice” on snow-cleared roads.
Washington State University’s Pullman campus in southeast Washington canceled classes Monday and Tuesday to allow students from across the state to return.
Areas of central Washington, including Leavenworth, received about three feet of snow Thursday and Friday, with some pockets reaching four feet, which the city described as a record high in a statement. The mayor of Leavenworth declared a state of emergency on Friday and called the National Guard.
Heavy snow and rain have raised concerns about avalanches in the Cascade Mountains. The Seattle Fire Department shared a video on Twitter of a house that had slipped off its foundations. The two people inside the house were rescued, but a companion dog was killed, the department said.
A 72-year-old man from Grays Harbor County in the state’s northwest died Friday in a torrential downpour after leaving to move his car over higher ground, according to the Associated Press.
In Lewis County, southwest Washington, where Chehalis live, water was declining on Sunday, but “we certainly still have flooding,” said Austin Majors, public information specialist for the county. In that county alone, there have been at least 25 water rescues, he said.
Thousands of people in the state were without power on Friday and Saturday, but most outages appeared to have been resolved. Governor Jay Inslee issued an emergency statement on Friday citing “dangerous driving conditions, flooding and prolonged road closures.”
Meteorologists attributed the weather to a warm front that had hovered over the region for an extended period, bringing in several inches of rain.