U.S. 2 to Stevens Pass likely to be closed until Wednesday

EVERETT — Damage to a tiny bridge over a nameless creek will keep a stretch of major highway closed well into next week.

It’s one more headache left behind by Tuesday’s storm.

U.S. 2 between Skykomish and the summit at Stevens Pass will remain shut down through the weekend and likely until Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, as crews scramble to make emergency repairs after the bridge was undercut by the storm.

“It’s a bridge you probably wouldn’t notice driving over, it goes over a creek that doesn’t have a name,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Travis Phelps.

On a given day, about 5,000 vehicles take U.S. 2 over Stevens Pass. Up to 9,000 make the trip on a typical weekend and roughly that number use it during the holidays.

“There are a lot of folks all through Snohomish County who rely on it for travel and commerce,” Phelps said.

Repairs could cost up to a half million dollars, transportation officials said Thursday afternoon.

“Our bridge engineers spent the morning assessing the damage to the bridge and developing a plan to restore traffic to this critical route,” said Dave McCormick, an assistant regional administrator for the agency. “A contractor will begin working tomorrow to reopen at least one lane of traffic before the Thanksgiving holiday.”

People who plan to use the pass for Thanksgiving should plan on delays, Phelps said.

Tuesday’s storm washed away a significant amount soil that supports the bridge’s foundation. Before the bridge can reopen to traffic, contractor crews must install a temporary support system underneath the southeast corner of the bridge.

Once the bridge is opened to traffic, the state will use temporary signals to keep traffic moving. The signal timing will be set up to best accommodate peak traffic, officials said.

Oversized loads will not be allowed to cross the bridge. The state is allowing emergency vehicles to cross the bridge. Local residents will be able to access properties east of the closure point in Skykomish, but will not be allowed to cross the bridge. There is currently no available detour.

Once traffic is being alternated across the bridge, contractor crews will then perform additional repair work by rebuilding the foundation underneath the bridge pier by using a jack to lift the bridge and replacing the missing soil with grout.

“We’ll release additional details on when this stretch of U.S. 2 will open to two lane traffic in the next several days,” said McCormick.

Victim identified

Meanwhile, a Monroe man killed when a tree fell on his car in Tuesday’s windstorm has been identified.

The Snohomish County medical examiner reported that Grant Strinden, 23, died of head injuries. The accident happened around 1:10 p.m. Tuesday in the 28800 block of Ben Howard Road.

Strinden died at the scene. No one else was in the car.

There was some good news Thursday. Tim Albers, a Sultan man who suffered electrical burns to a leg, his back and a hand during the storm, was described as improving at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He remains in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit.

Albers was in the fields tending to cows on property in 31000 block of 124th Street SE, west of Sultan Basin Road. He had no idea a live powerline had fallen over an electric fence roughly 600 feet away, Sultan Fire Chief Merlin Halverson said. When he touched the fence, he absorbed the jolt.

A co-worker freed Albers by cutting the fence. He was wearing rubber boots and the wire cutters had rubber handles. Nonetheless, he told fire crews that he felt a tingle in his feet, Halverson said.

Conditions were too windy for a medical helicopter to fly Albers to Harborview. Medics drove him straight there for treatment in the burn unit.

Sultan fire crews were called to both the fatal accident on Ben Howard Road and the close call with the electrified fence. Those were among more than 30 calls that day.

Two days later, Halverson reflected on the storm and the efforts of his crews.

“I’m extremely proud of the people who work here,” he said.

Adding up the damage

Flood waters were receding along the Snohomish River on Thursday but a flood warning remained in effect near Monroe until Friday.

Reports of damage across the county were coming in to the county’s Emergency Management Department. The hardest hit areas were along the U.S. 2 corridor in Index, Sultan and Gold Bar and in the lowlands from Stanwood through Silvana along the Pioneer Highway.

It’s too soon to tally how many people were affected or how much damage was done, Emergency Management Director John Pennington said. Rivers still were receding and people who lost power may not have come home yet if they are staying with a friend or at a hotel.

In Stanwood, people were talking Thursday about a rescue that somehow escaped notice during Wednesday’s rush to fill sandbags as insurance against flooding.

A public works employee and firefighter medics used a backhoe to reach a woman who was trapped when rushing waters from the flooding Stillaguamish River overcame her car along Marine Drive south of town.

The rescue crew was able “to get her from the vehicle and into the bucket of the backhoe and transport her to safety,” Stanwood Public Works Director Kevin Hushagen said in an email.

He praised crews for going “above and beyond” to keep people safe.

The city of Arlington received at least one report of several parked vehicles crushed by a fallen tree. No one was injured.

Water from the flooding Stillaguamish River rose up to three feet in the Haller Park restrooms on Tuesday, but there was no damage other than losing two partial boxes of toilet paper in the supply room, officials said.

Twin Rivers Park was the hardest hit area in the city. The jersey barriers on Highway 530 were swept across the road Tuesday by the force of the flood. Branches, silt and gravel littered the sports fields at the park, and ground gave way to two large holes on the west shoulder of the highway, next to the park.

State transportation workers were called in to repair the barriers and shoulders on Highway 530.

Remote roads blocked, too

The Mountain Loop Highway was closed due to downed trees and road damage, said Erika Morris, information assistant at the Darrington Ranger District.

On the Granite Falls side, Snohomish County, which manages the road in that area, closed the gate at Deer Creek between Silverton and Big Four. On the Darrington side, the road is not recommended for passenger vehicles beyond the White Chuck area, said Phyllis Reed of the Darrington Ranger District. From that point south, the road is intermittently covered with large rocks and wood and the shoulders are slumping in some areas. The gate at the Bedal Creek bridge is closed, blocking all areas south.

The Suiattle River Road also is blocked by downed trees about 15 miles from Highway 530. A motorist was forced to spend a night in his car, Reed said, because the road was blocked. He was able to walk out about 10 miles to a state timber sale. The crew at the site helped him get his car out.

The Suiattle closure cuts off access to many popular trailheads, including Green Mountain and the Suiattle River trails. Access to the Huckleberry Mountain trail is still open.

Morris, however, advises waiting before heading out to hike. Many trees are down across roads and trail throughout the forest and some routes may be washed out. It will be awhile before forest staff are able to assess the damage.

In the meantime, though, some debris is getting cleared by members of the community.

“We’ve been doing a very brisk business in firewood permits,” Reed said.

Improved weather

Rain isn’t in the forecast for the next few days, a respite that should help clear the fields of floodwaters, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

The dry days also are expected to be chilly, he said. Daytime temperatures should be in the 40s, peaking around 45 degrees on Friday. At night, temperatures are likely to drop below freezing, Burg said. The forecast calls for the low 30s Thursday and Saturday night. Friday is expected to be the coldest, dipping into the high 20s.

Icy weather could prove dangerous at homes that still don’t have power for heat and on roads where lingering water can freeze.

Early forecasts for next week predict a mix of snow and rain in the lowlands if the temperatures continue to hit freezing at night.

Damage reports requested

Pennington urged people to report storm damage. The reports can be for a flooded living room, a tree on the roof or items lost when a refrigerator and freezer had to be emptied due to power outages.

That information is needed for the county and state to seek federal money to help after the storm. Pennington urges anyone with damage from wind, flooding or power outages to consult with their insurance company and report the damage to the county.

“People sometimes think their damages don’t matter or they try to be tough and resilient and handle it themselves,” he said.

Instead, he asks them to take photos of high water marks, fallen debris and damaged property. Documenting is key, he said.

Those affected by the storm can report damages online at snoco.org or by calling 425-388-5088.

Jessi Loerch contributed to this report

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