1 missing, slides in Pacific Northwest floods

by Lisa Baumann | The Associated Press

Bellingham, Wash. – At least one person was missing and presumed dead as snow turned to rain and flooded the Pacific Northwest on Friday, threatening mountains with flooding, landslides and avalanches.

A 72-year-old man never returned after leaving his residence in Cosmopolis, west of Olympia, Washington, on Friday morning to drive his car to higher ground, according to Grays Harbor Undersheriff Brad Johansson.

Johansson said the man’s residence was on a road that was flooded and officials fear his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters down a steep bank next to his driveway.

Snow and rain forced the closure of two major Washington state highways — Interstate 90 and Interstate 5 — with flooding also flooding roads across western Washington and Oregon.

In Lewis County, southwestern Washington, a 20-mile (32-kilometer) section of Interstate 5 was closed in both directions south of Chehalis due to flooding from the Chehalis River. All lanes of Interstate 5 in that area reopened on Friday afternoon.

The major route of I-90 on the Cascades – Snoqualmie Pass in Washington was closed Thursday due to avalanche danger, heavy snow and reduced visibility. Stevens Pass on US 2, White Pass on US 12 and Blewett Pass on US 97 also closed Thursday.

Transportation officials say all four mountain passes connecting western Washington to eastern Washington will remain closed until Sunday due to dangerous conditions.

Finn said one of the only other roads crossing the state, State Route 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River, was closed for several hours on Friday due to a fatal accident near Lyle.

Jay Inslee of Washington Gov. issued an emergency proclamation Friday as severe winter storms headed back on Dec. 17. State agencies and local jurisdictions are coordinating resources to address damaged property and infrastructure, assess storm damage and implement repairs, he said.

Officials said on the university website that Washington State University canceled classes Monday and Tuesday to give students enough time off after the winter season in Pullman, eastern Washington.

Near Stevens Pass, northeast of Seattle, the city of Leavenworth declared a state of emergency and sought help from the National Guard after 3 feet (91 cm) of snow fell in 24 hours.

KCPQ-TV reported that city leaders are concerned about the snow load on buildings and homes.

In Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, firefighters respond to a house that fell down a hill. Live video from King-TV showed employees rescuing a man and working to put out the fire outside the house.

According to the Seattle Fire Department, a man trapped in the basement of the house was rescued. Firefighters said one woman survived on her own, while one dog died and another was missing.

Dozens of watches and warnings were in effect in Washington and Oregon, including a flood warning for the northern Oregon coast after heavy rainfall.

Hoquim, Washington, in Grays County received a record 5.78 inches (14.68 cm) of rain on Thursday, the National Weather Service said. According to the Meteorological Service, other areas are expected to see about half the rain in a day in the month of January.

The National Weather Service said southwest Washington experienced its worst flooding in a decade and that some rivers rose more than 18 feet (5.5 meters) late Thursday.

Parts of downtown Issaquah, east of Seattle, were closed on Friday after Issaquah Creek sent water to the streets. KIRO-TV reported that some houses were flooded and at least one apartment building was evacuated.

Around Centralia and Thurston County, roads were flooded Friday and members of the Washington National Guard were helping fill bags of sand and other requests, the guard said on Twitter. According to the American Red Cross, about 50 people sought asylum at a site in Centralia on Friday.

In northwest Washington, snow fell in Bellingham, while roadways were flooded throughout Whatcom County. According to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, exceptionally high tides and winds were causing coastal flooding around homes in Birch Bay. A flood of homes and businesses also affected cities including Edison and University Place.

In northwest Oregon, coastal flooding after heavy rains disrupted communities. Astoria received more than 4 inches (10.1 cm) of rain on Thursday, breaking the 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, Kannappa and Seaside canceled classes on Friday.