Washington flooded by rain and melting snow

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Heavy rain, combined with melting snow from a previous storm, have caused the US state of Washington to issue the largest evacuation order in the history of the state. Over 30,000 people living along the Puyallup River were informed on Wednesday night to leave their homes due to the flooding, combined with threats such as mudslides, avalanches, and overflowing rivers.

In some places rain totalled over 6 inches, including 6.86 inches at Marblemount, and 6.3 inches at Snoqualmie Pass. A spokesman for Washington Emergency Management told the media "This is the largest evacuation in scope and scale. We haven't dealt with something like this before. It's hitting more populous areas and an industrial area. It has a much more devastating impact on the economy."

Flooding in a ditch, the effect of flooding in residential areas such as this one in North Lakewood.
Image: ComputerGuy890100.

The flooding has had a large impact on travel in the state, including 20 miles of Interstate 5 being closed on Wednesday night because of rising flood waters on the roads. Washington's three roads that provided a way through the Cascade Mountains were also closed, but to the rising threat of avalanches on the roads. Interstate 90, one of the roads through the Cascade Mountains, is set to re-open Thursday, said a spokesperson for the Washington Transportation Department.

In the town of Orting, slightly south of Tacoma, the town's fire department urged all of its 26,000 residents to leave the town yesterday, due to the Puyallup River and near Carbon River being at dangerously high levels. Forecasters predict that these two rivers could reach all-time highs in water levels, and could cause severe damage to property and businesses. The Puyallup River is forecast to reach 1.5 feet over its flood stage of 10 feet later today, endangering homes and offices throughout the area.

The storm is expected to end by Friday, says Rich Marriot, meteorologist for KING channel 5. "It should be all over with by late Thursday. The rain will stop down here and the snow will stop in the mountains," he stated, "Most of the major crests are going to be early tomorrow morning, but it will probably take most of Thursday for those rivers to get back inside their banks."

"This will be a memorable experience if it hasn't already [been] this winter," said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, "It will be like two feet of icing on the cake."

The Stanwood Camano School District, which serves both Stanwood and Camano Island, had to close on January 8 due to flooding at the schools and on major highways, such as Highway 532, the only road that connects Camano Island to Stanwood. 30 Stanwood High School students helped sandbag various areas of the community on January 7.

Other major highways across Western Washington were closed, such as Highway 530, also known as the Pioneer Highway, which was closed at the exit to Interstate 5, not allowing access to the highway, as the nearby Stilliguamish River breached a dike to hold it back. State Route 9 was also closed in the Snohomish River Valley, as the Snohomish River overflowed.