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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pacific Northwest storm causes flooding, closes interstates

Associated Press

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Snow and rain continued to fall across the Pacific Northwest on Friday, forcing the closure of parts of Washington state’s two major highways — Interstate 90 and Interstate 5 — and causing flooding that swamped roads and closed schools in parts of Oregon.

In southwestern Washington’s Lewis County, a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 had been closed in both directions south of Chehalis because of flooding from the Chehalis River. All lanes of Interstate 5 in that area reopened Friday afternoon, according to Washington state Patrol Trooper Will Finn. He said other roads in that area were still experiencing flooding.

The major route across Washington’s Cascades — I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass — closed Thursday due to avalanche danger, heavy snow and low visibility. Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, White Pass on U.S. 12 and Blewett Pass on U.S. 97 also closed Thursday.

Transportation officials say the four mountain passes that connect Western Washington with Eastern Washington likely would remain closed until Sunday because of dangerous conditions.

Washington State University cancelled classes Monday and Tuesday to allow students ample time to return to Pullman in Eastern Washington following the week of severe winter weather in the state, officials said on the university’s website.

Part of one of the only other roads crossing the state, State Route 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River, closed Friday because of a fatal crash near Lyle, Finn said.

Dozens of watches and warnings were in effect in Washington and Oregon, including a flood warning for the northern Oregon Coast following huge amounts of rainfall.

The National Weather Service said Hoquiam, Washington, received a record 5.78 inches (14.68 centimeters) of rain Thursday. Other areas saw nearly half of the rain they’d expect to see for the month of January in one day, according to the weather service.

Southwest Washington experienced its worst flooding in a decade and some rivers crested at more than 18 feet (5.5 meters) late Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

East of Seattle on Friday, parts of downtown Issaquah, Washington, were closed after Issaquah Creek sent water over the roads. At least one apartment building was evacuated after the creek spilled over its banks and into the parking lot under the complex.

People in Issaquah worked through the night into Friday to place sandbags to prevent waters from Issaquah Creek from flooding their homes and property.

The creek was expected to crest sometime Friday morning as a cold front sweeps through and pushes the precipitation east.

In Lewis County, Washington National Guard members were helping with filling sand bags and other requests, the guard said on Twitter.

In northwest Oregon, coastal flooding after heavy rains disrupted communities. Astoria got more than 4 inches (10.1 cm) of rain Thursday, breaking a record for rain on that date set in 1914.

The nearby city of Warrenton declared a state of emergency due to widespread flooding and school districts in Astoria, Warrenton, Knappa and Seaside canceled classes Friday because school buses could not navigate flooded roads.

Forecasters say the rains should subside over the weekend.

In Oregon, Interstate 84 reopened after a landslide closed almost 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the highway from Troutdale to Hood River on Thursday. The Oregon Department of Transportation warns slides could still be in the area on Friday, and crews are continuing to clean up.

A flash flood watch is in effect now for the Columbia River Gorge and more snow is expected later in the day. Officials also expect smaller landslides throughout Friday.