Watching the rivers rise

By Jim Haley

Herald Writer

Officials were keeping a wary eye Wednesday night on Snohomish County rivers after a storm doused Western Washington with several inches of rain, causing flood watches to be issued for the Stillaguamish, Snohomish and Skykomish rivers.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday also issued a high-wind warning for Wednesday night and early this morning, predicting sustained winds of up to 40 miles per hour and gusts to 60. High winds should continue today in the mountains.

The weather played havoc on the highways, too, causing longer than normal traffic jams on I-5 during commute times and sending oozing mud onto the two westbound lanes of Highway 522 near Paradise Lake Road.

By Wednesday night, most rising Snohomish County rivers were leveling off. But Mike McCallister, a coordinator with the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, turned his concerns to the lower Snohomish River, which could come close to spilling over its banks early today.

A flood watch means that flooding is possible but not certain or imminent. A flood warning means that flooding is expected within 12 to 36 hours, McCallister said.

Flood warnings were issued Wednesday morning for several rivers in King and Mason counties, including the Snoqualmie River.

This surge of wet weather came suddenly.

McCallister said a particularly heavy downpour Wednesday morning brought the north fork of the Stillaguamish near Granite Falls above official flood stage, although the river stayed within its banks.

In the Index area along the Skykomish River, 5 inches of rain fell in a six-hour period Wednesday morning, McCallister said.

On the roadways, the state Department of Transportation was able to clear one of two mud-covered westbound lanes of Highway 522 within two hours of the 3 p.m. slide. Spokeswoman Claudia Cornish said crews were assessing the stability of the nearby hill to determine when the second lane could be opened.

A lot of rain fell in the mountains, too.

In the Sultan Basin, the Snohomish County PUD measured 5.8 inches of rain from Tuesday through Wednesday afternoon. That caused the Everett-PUD Spada Lake Reservoir to rise 6 feet in 18 hours, said Bruce Meaker, manager of the Jackson Hydroelectric Project.

You can call Herald Writer Jim Haley at 425-339-3447

or send e-mail to haley@heraldnet.com.

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