December 13, 2010 in City

West Side inundated by rains

Flood levels breached on more than 20 rivers
George Tibbits Associated Press
 
Joshua Trujillo photo

The Stillaguamish River floods homes in Granite Falls, Wash., on Sunday. About 230 homes in the area were issued a voluntary evacuation.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Record rainfall Sunday in the Pacific Northwest triggered mudslides and caused flooding that swamped homes along some Western Washington rivers, sending some residents fleeing and others rushing to get sandbags in place.

Several hundred residents along portions of the Stillaguamish River northeast of Everett were told to consider evacuating as the river and its forks tied or exceeded record levels.

No injuries were reported, but scores of homes were flooded as rivers rose. Some roads were damaged by slides and water. KOMO-TV in Seattle reported that at least six people were rescued by hovercraft near Granite Falls after water trapped them in their homes.

Most rivers started going down by Sunday afternoon, and the worst of the flood danger was expected to be over early this morning. The major exception was the Stillaguamish, which reached 21.06 feet at Arlington on Sunday afternoon, tying the record set in November 2006. Flood stage for the river is 14 feet.

The North Fork and South Fork of the Stillaguamish join at Arlington, and flooding was reported on both. The North Fork at Arlington crested at 4 p.m. Sunday at a record 15.29 feet.

Near Granite Falls on the South Fork, residents of about 230 homes and businesses were sandbagging and told to consider evacuating.

The Red Cross opened shelters in Stanwood and other communities along the river, and the Washington State Patrol reported numerous roads were inundated, including state Route 530 near Arlington. The county and the Army Corps of Engineers sent crews and passed out thousands of sandbags. The corps also sent flood teams to help out at six other Washington river basins.

The rain had eased by midday Sunday in much of Western Washington and northwest Oregon. But parts of more than 20 Washington rivers had flooded, said Johnny Burg, National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle.

The weather service warned that the heavy rains had saturated many hillsides, increasing the risk of mudslides. Crews were kept busy Sunday clearing slide debris.

Crews reopened U.S. Highway 2 near Skykomish after a mudslide blocked it early Sunday. That slide, on the west slope of the Cascades about 47 miles east of Seattle, also blocked the railroad track across the Cascades from Everett to Wenatchee, BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said.

BNSF crews worked to clear that and numerous other mud and rock slides throughout Western Washington. Amtrak service was suspended in the region until Tuesday morning as a precaution, as were Sounder commuter trains today between Seattle and Everett. Melonas said no trains had been hit and freight trains continued to run.

Slides blocked at least one street in Seattle and closed state Route 11, the scenic Chuckanut Drive, south of Bellingham. A small slide also blocked a train track just north of the tunnel that runs under downtown Seattle, but it was cleared in about a half-hour.

Minor flooding was possible on some tributaries in Oregon’s Willamette River Basin. Portland city officials said an overnight break from the rain allowed most flooded intersections to drain.

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