Snow and record rain fuel flooding threat in US Pacific north-west | US news


At least one person was missing, presumed dead as snow turned to rain and deluged the Pacific north-west on Friday, causing flooding, landslides and avalanche danger in the mountains.

A 72-year-old man never returned after leaving his residence to move his car to higher ground on Friday in Cosmopolis, Washington, according to Grays Harbor Undersheriff Brad Johansson. The man’s residence was on a road that was flooded and authorities fear his vehicle was swept into floodwaters down a steep bank next to his driveway, Johansson said.

Snow and rain forced the closure of parts of two major highways – Interstate 90 and Interstate 5 – with flooding also swamping roads throughout western Washington and Oregon.

In south-western Washington’s Lewis county, a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 was closed in both directions south of Chehalis because of flooding from the Chehalis River. The major route across Washington’s Cascade mountains – I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass – closed on Thursday due to avalanche danger, heavy snow and low visibility. Stevens Pass on US 2, White Pass on US 12 and Blewett Pass on US 97 also closed.

Officials said all four passes that connect western Washington with eastern Washington would probably remain closed until Sunday.

The Washington governor, Jay Inslee, issued an emergency proclamation because of severe winter storms going back to 17 December. State agencies and local jurisdictions were coordinating resources to address damaged property and infrastructure, assess damage caused by the storms and implement repairs, he said.

Washington State University canceled classes on Monday and Tuesday to allow students ample time to return following the severe winter weather.

Near Stevens Pass, north-east of Seattle, the city of Leavenworth declared a state of emergency and asked for national guard help after 3ft of snow fell in 24 hours. City leaders were concerned about the weight of snow on buildings and homes.

In Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, firefighters responded to a home that slid down a hillside. Live video appeared to show crews rescuing a person and working to extinguish a fire just outside the home. A man trapped in the home’s basement was extricated. A woman escaped on her own, firefighters said.

Dozens of watches and warnings were in effect in Washington and Oregon, including a flood warning for the northern Oregon coast following huge rainfall. The National Weather Service said Hoquiam, Washington, received a record 5.78in of rain Thursday. Other areas saw nearly half of the rain they would expect to see for January in one day.

South-west Washington experienced its worst flooding in a decade and some rivers crested at more than 18ft late on Thursday, the NWS said.

East of Seattle on Friday, parts of downtown Issaquah were closed after some homes flooded and at least one apartment building was evacuated, KIRO-TV reported.

In Centralia and around Thurston county, streets were flooding and national guard members were helping with filling sand bags and other requests, the guard said. About 50 people sought shelter at a site in Centralia, according to the American Red Cross.

In north-west Washington, snow fell in Bellingham while roadways flooded throughout Whatcom county. Exceptionally high tides and winds were causing coastal flooding around homes in Birch Bay. Tidal flooding of homes and businesses also affected towns including Edison and University Place.

In north-west Oregon, coastal flooding after heavy rains disrupted communities. Astoria got more than 4in of rain on Thursday, breaking a record for that date set in 1914.

The nearby city of Warrenton declared a state of emergency due to flooding and school districts in Astoria, Warrenton, Knappa and Seaside canceled classes.

In Oregon, Interstate 84 reopened after a landslide closed almost 50 miles of highway from Troutdale to Hood River on Thursday.

Forecasters say the rains should subside over the weekend but landslides would continue to be a risk into Saturday.



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