Eye On Olympia

Aberdeen cut off, I-5 iffy, governor declares state of emergency...

With a city surrounded by floodwaters, waters rising on Interstate 5 and dozens of landslides reported along Western Washington highways, Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency today, making National Guard troops available to storm-damaged counties.

"At this hour, Aberdeen has been effectively cut off" by water covering area roads, Gregoire told reporters at the state capitol shortly after noon. State road crews are only allowing through emergency vehicles on the one remaining road that's passable, she said.

Western Washington has been hammered in the past 36 hours by snowfall, heavy rains, and winds that on the coast reached 80 miles an hour.

Ten counties and four cities – Seattle, Everett, Olympia and Shoreline – have declared a state of emergency, and more are expected to.

Road crews are particularly worried about Interstate 5, the main north/south freeway linking Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Near Chehalis, one of two northbound lanes has been closed due to high water on the roadway. Officials are nervously watching the sole remaining northbound lane, covered with 1 1/2 inches of standing water. Water is rolling down onto the road from an adjacent hill, Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said.

The National Guard has three task forces with high-clearance vehicles and command trucks available, as well as stockpiles of sandbags. No counties have called for help yet, Gregoire said.

Hammond said the Department of Transportation has 800 people out in the field clearing fallen trees and assessing landslide damage, flooding and other problems. The department's website was briefly knocked out late Monday morning, she said, apparently from a surge of web traffic by motorists.

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