Rains unleash slides in fire-scarred area
TWISP, Wash. – A highway in central Washington remained closed on Friday after heavy rains unleashed mudslides that washed down hillsides left barren by wildfires.
There were no reports of injuries from the Thursday night mudslides, but details were hard to come by because some phone and radio towers that serve the remote north-central part of the state were knocked out in recent wildfires.
Multiple slides occurred overnight on two highways, marooning as many as 12 vehicles, officials said. Washington State Patrol troopers and sheriff’s deputies worked to rescue those who were stranded.
“As best we know, everybody has gotten out,” trooper Darren Wright said Friday.
North of Carlton, mudslides knocked a house off its foundation, pushed an occupied vehicle into a creek, trapped a dozen vehicles between slides and left a mound of dirt and debris 5 feet thick and 145 feet wide blocking Highway 153.
Highway 153 remained closed Friday.
“It was freaky,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told the newspaper. “There was so much water, it was amazing.”
There were at least two slides on Highway 20 in a 30-mile stretch from Twisp to Okanogan, Transportation Department spokesman Jeff Adamson said. That stretch of road was closed until Friday afternoon.
More thunderstorms were forecast Friday, and a flash flood watch was in effect through Friday evening, said meteorologist Steven Van Horn at the National Weather Service in Spokane.
Some people whose homes survived the largest wildfire in state history this summer had damage from the mudslides. The fires burned more than 400 square miles, and 500 firefighters still were mopping up.
“This flooding is in the areas that were burned,” Adamson said. “It brings down rocks, mud and water.”
Residents said they were feeling disheartened.
“It’s like another nail in the coffin,” Carlton General Store owner Jeff Lyman said. “It’s pretty bad down here right now.”
Maggie Garrett, who lives on Benson Creek, described fences torn down and deep channels carved through driveways and backyards.
“It was literally like a river running through here,” she said. “And now, everything’s 6 inches under mud.”