Seattle Washington floods close roads, schools; many evacuated
Western Washington and Seattle floods continue to cause problems today, closing major highways, local roads, and flooding homes, businesses, and schools. North Thurston High School and schools in the entire School District are all closed due to threat of severe flooding. Snohomish County road closures are numerous, as well as King County road closures, and Skagit County - commuters are being told to not travel unless absolutely necessary. Tens of thousands of residents were urged to evacuate yesterday, while all three major highways across the Cascades area remained closed with a threat of avalanches and mudslides.
The downpour of warm tropical rain after the heavy dump of winter snow, has caused major flooding, even closing a 20 mile stretch of Interstate 5 - a major road in Southwest Washington, which could be closed for a few days still. About 60 roads are closed overall and the Washington National Guard has been dispatched to deal with the problem.
The Amtrack train has been suspended between Portland and Seattle today due to threat of mudslides, and commuter trains between Tacoma and Seattle have been canceled today.
The flooding is expected to continue, despite some rivers beginning to recede in the mountains today. The Snoqualmie River hit a level of eight feet above flood stage, which is a record, and officials are monitoring if it will get any higher. The Chehalis River level is still rising, and has closed Interstate 5 for the second time and it's expected to reach levels of 10 feet on the highway.
Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond has said that this route is used by 55,000 vehicles a day and could be closed for about four days, and although waters may be receding today, the flooding crisis is far from over.
"The good news is that the cold front has moved through Western Washington and the heavy precipitation has changed over to showers, so basically, there is not a large amount of water being added to the rivers, it's the water already in the river basins running downstream," McDonnal said. Across the state, emergency and weather officials today seemed surprised at the speed with which the rivers rose, even at predictable trouble spots. They scrambled to reroute traffic as the number of roads deemed impassable continued to grow.
In Orting and the surrounding valley, 26,000 people were encouraged to seek high ground as rivers surged over soil saturated from recent snowstorms. Officials urged the evacuation of about 5,400 homes in Fife, and 12,000 people were asked to evacuate Puyallup. Officials in Tacoma declared a civil emergency.
The Chehalis, Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers in Lewis County were all predicted to crest at or near record levels today.