The Twin Harbors Tuesday morning began to dry out and recover from a powerful storm that ripped down power lines, flooded streets and highways, and caused a wall of mud and trees to crash down on a State Patrol car on U.S. Highway 101 near Naselle.
The first major storm of the winter, came with wind gusts topping 100 mph in Pacific County, where the bridge to Astoria, Ore., was closed, and began to flood rivers and streams with up to 5 inches of rain that fell across Southwest Washington since Sunday night.
Now, weather officials warn about another round of flood watches and warnings into Thanksgiving.
A flood warning has been issued for the Chehalis River at Porter from Tuesday morning through late Thursday night, with the river at 20.4 feet and expected to rise over flood stage at 21 feet. Minor flooding is forecast.
“The Chehalis always comes up two or three days after the event for us,” said Charles Wallace, Grays Harbor County deputy director of Emergency Services. “Monday was the rain, and now we will actually see a two- or three-day event with the Chehalis.”
Despite days of warnings about heavy rains, many on the Twin Harbors were unprepared for the strength of the wind and rain that battered the coast. Thousands lost power, were slowed by flooding and mudslides or affected by school closures and activity cancellations.
In the 48 hours from Sunday to Tuesday, Hoquiam recorded 3.99 inches of rain, while Quinault had 5.27 inches and Humptulips had 5.25 inches, the Weather Service reported.
The drive down Mill Creek Road in Cosmopolis turned into a scene from a disaster movie for one woman and two small children. A hole about six feet by six feet yawned open in the roadway in front of them, and their SUV plunged front-first into about four feet of mud.
“Just like in the movies, that’s what you’d picture,” Cosmopolis Police Chief Casey Stratton said. “Pretty hairy.”
Everyone got out safely, and Cosi police were aided by Aberdeen officers and firefighters from Cosi and Aberdeen. Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines reported the hole was caused by a culvert under the road collapsing.
“He kept those people calm, the Cosi chief did an awesome job,” said Aberdeen Capt. John Green, who was assisting on the scene.
All over Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, the pounding rain and wind caused trouble. Standing water collected more than a foot deep in some areas making slow going for drivers.
“There are numerous small landslides along many of the roads between McCleary and Elma, up along the Wynooche, some of those areas,” Wallace said. “They’re not blocking the roads per se, but they’re going to cause a little bit of a problem.”
In Naselle, the slides were bigger — one carried a Washington State Patrol trooper’s car away, according to the Associated Press. The trooper’s car was hit by another, and both cars and a tree burned.
Wallace said the problems were compounded by several days of heavy rain already saturating the soil. The worst of the rain hit between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, about 2.7 inches according to the Weather Service. The standing water closed 3rd Street in Ocosta, and numerous streets were difficult to drive. Police marked as many dangerous roads as possible, but responses were slowed due to increased demand on emergency services, Green said.
In Elma, a Grays Harbor Sheriff’s deputy lost track of the edge of the road in the deep water and wound up in a ditch. Undersheriff Dave Pimentel said the deputy was not injured and there was no damage to the vehicle.
The storm knocked out power to more than 2,700 Grays Harbor PUD customers Monday, with outages in Tokeland, Montesano, Central Park, the B Street and Bel Aire areas of Aberdeen, and in the northwest part of the county including Pacific Beach, Copalis Beach, Copalis Crossing, Moclips and Taholah.
By 8:30 p.m., PUD spokeswoman Liz Anderson said crews had been able to restore power to all but about 100 customers from Montesano to North River and to about 200 customers from the Bench Drive area to the south end of Wishkah Road. Because of the storm, the PUD cancelled the regular PUD Commission meeting Monday evening.
After school programs and pre-schools in Aberdeen were cancelled and several schools in Pacific County sent students home early. South Bend schools started two hours late today.
Flood warnings were issued for the Chehalis, Satsop and Willapa Rivers Monday morning as heavy rain continued to pelt Western Washington from the coast inland.
The National Weather Service said a strong wet front stalled over Southwest Washington, and those rivers along with the Newaukum River in Lewis County were expected to rise to flood stage or above.
A flood watch is in effect through this afternoon, the Weather Service said.
Some businesses had rising waters creep in their doors.
Dr. Brenda Smith of Twin Harbors Eye Center in East Abedeen, said she arrived at the office around 7 a.m. Monday, and by 8:30 water was seeping under the doors and through cracks in the walls.
“I’ve been here 12 years and this is the worst its ever been,” she said.
The staff quickly put sandbags and rubberized plastic under the doors, but owner Rocky Rosche said Monday he wasn’t sure yet whether the carpet can be saved. The business stayed open to anyone who came in, but Rosche said many patients were simply staying home.
On I Street in Aberdeen, Anne Marie’s Cafe didn’t fare so well. Waitress Samantha Jones said about up to five inches of water got into the restaurant. Sandbags were later set up to stem the flow, and staff who were supposed to be serving customers instead were put to work pumping water and cleaning up.
“We’re just getting extractors and trying to get the water out,” Jones said.
The restaurant closed yesterday and expected to remain closed at least through today.
“It’s been worse before, but this one’s pretty bad,” she said.
The Aberdeen Timberland Library across the street managed to stay dry — the water never rose high enough to get near its doors.
On the 600 Block of Stuart Ave. the heavy rain fall damaged the foundation of a three story home, and washed away a large part of the soil under the house. The house has now been cited as being unsafe and sealed, and the woman who lived in there has been forced out.
In South Aberdeen, the winds were a problem. An empty semi truck was knocked on its side by wind as it crossed the Chehalis River Bridge, closing two lanes for hours as firefighters and police worked to clear the scene and a minor oil spill. There were no injuries. Aberdeen police Capt. Green said witnesses saw the truck hit by a gust of wind and half its tires were up in the air. It managed to sit down after that gust, but the next knocked it flat on its side.
On the Astoria-Megler Bridge, another semi was knocked on its side by winds, according to the Associated Press. The bridge was closed until the winds died down enough to remove the truck, which hung precariously along the edge of the bridge.
Officials with the Westport Coast Guard station said that by Tuesday outside the harbor, the water was moving over the bar in eight- to ten-foot swells. The Coast Guard is still restricting all recreational vessels and passenger vessels that have not been inspected by the Coast Guard. There were no incidents of note on Monday, in part due to a lack of boating. Helicopter rescue training, scheduled for Monday, was cancelled due to inclement weather.
“Most people just stayed to the docks and didn’t move in or out,” Petty Officer Josh Brazil said. “We didn’t have any traffic all day.”
The Monday storms were pretty much as expected, said Ted Buehner of the National Weather Service in Seattle. The Chehalis River around Centralia was expected to reach its peak levels sometime this afternoon, and downstream areas should follow. Flooding is still a concern today, and winds will be a danger through Friday. Residents should prepare for the possibility of more power outages, he added.
“It’s pretty much on track. Welcome to November weather,” Buehner said.