Record-setting rains, gusty winds make travel a headache

SEATTLE -- A record-setting rain poured down and winds howled across much of Western Washington Monday, toppling trees, knocking out power and turning some streets into impromptu swimming pools.

Over 2 inches of rain fell in the Seattle Metro area with greater amounts out toward the coast and in the hills. Several streets were flooded and there were dozens of accidents, crippling the morning commute. Over on the northern Oregon and southern Washington coast, winds blasted to hurricane-force strength, even reaching triple digits on some of the exposed hilltops.

In Pacific County, a trooper and another driver miraculously escaped injury when a tree fell on the trooper's car Monday morning.

The trooper had stopped for a mudslide on US 101 at milepost 30, said Trooper Russ Winger, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol. As the trooper sat in the car, another car pulled up along side him. Suddenly, a tree fell over on top of the trooper's car, setting it on fire.

The trooper managed to crawl out the passenger door as the fire started, then broke out the window of the other car and freed the woman inside, Winger said.

The trooper then went back to this patrol car and removed the weapons to prevent ammunition from exploding.

The Washington State Department of Transportation reports there were more trees down on Highway 101 about 30 miles north along the Pacific and Grays Harbor County line. Trees were also reported down across SR-107 near Preachers Slough Road.

The strong winds gusting over 60 mph were also knocking out power along the coast. Grays Harbor PUD says power was out to about 2,500 customers as of late Monday morning.

Wind gusts were even stronger along the southern Washington and Oregon Coast. A semi overturned on the Astoria-Megler Bridge as wind gauges nearby reported a gust to 101 mph. Across the border in Naselle, Washington, a wind gauge high up in the Willapa Hills hit a gust of 114 mph. . Astoria had a gust to 92 mph, with gusts to 75-80 mph common along Newport and Tillamook.

Closer to home, in Lacey, gusty winds toppled a large tree into a car in the 6700 block of Martin Way E., witnesses said.

Around Seattle and the Central Puget Sound area, it was the rain that was the biggest headache. State and city Department of Transportation and utility crews were busy clearing clogged storm drains where standing water was backing up into lanes of traffic.

The southbound lanes of Highway 99 approaching the Battery Street Tunnel were entirely covered with water during Monday morning's commute, slowing traffic to a crawl, and Mercer Street below the highway was also flooded. In the afternoon, Mercer Street was again the scene of problems as the traffic light went out at the busy intersection with Dexter, leading to a few accidents.

Overall, troopers in King County reported 66 car crashes through 4 p.m. with the evening commute still yet to commence, while Thurston and Pierce County had a combined 20 crashes.

Reports of other flooded streets were widespread across the Puget Sound area. Bothell was hit particularly hard with streets flooded around the 21400 block of 35th Ave. SE.

Wind combined with the rains and soggy grounds to topple trees into power lines. Puget Sound Energy reported 23,000 people in the dark Monday afternoon -- mainly on Vashon and Bainbridge Islands, while Seattle City Light reported 4,000 people without power in the North Queen Anne, Discovery Park and Fremont.

Mudslides in North Seattle affected passenger train service between Seattle and points north. Sound Transit had to cancel Northline Sounder service between Seattle and Everett while Amtrak said service was disrupted between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. It will remain that way until at least Wednesday due to a required 48 hour wait after a mudslide.

Over 10 mudslides fell along the route with some trees that fell measuring 40 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter, said Gus Melonas with Burlington Northern-Santa Fe.

In Everett, heavy rains caused 10 of 12 combined sewer outfalls to overflow into the Snohomish River and Port Gardner Bay, the city said. One of the sewer lift stations in the separated system also overflowed for approximately 55 minutes. Quantities are unknown at this time.

Everett has notified local agencies including State departments of Health and Ecology, Snohomish Health District and Port of Everett.

In Kitsap County, street flooding has been an issue in both Bremerton and Port Orchard.

In Downtown Port Orchard, water was up about halfway to cars' tires as the rain poured down there. Flooding was also causing issues along Seabeck Highway and Arnold Avenue, off Beach Drive in South Kitsap.

Water also covered four blocks of Kirkland's Totem Lake Blvd from 120th Ave NE to 124th Ave NE late Monday morning, Other spots around that city also having urban flooding, including Billy Creek, the Plaza at Yarrow Bay and a slide reported at 405 Lake Street. In Bellevue, part of the new northbound I-405 by-pass ramp to Eastbound SR-520 was closed due to rainwater causing erosion under the ramp.

Strong winds also caused a truck to overturn on the Chehalis Bridge.

The National Weather Service is also warning of increased risks of landslides and mudslides as the heavy rain falls.

Heavier rains were falling in the mountains, prompting Flood Warnings for the Skokomish, Chehalis and Newakum Rivers. Moderate flooding was expected on the Newakum and Chehalis with minor flooding on the Skokomish.

Centralia declared a local state of emergency and opened up an emergency shelter as local rivers and streams were expected to climb over flood stage.

The heavy rainfall also prompted King County to open its Flood Warning Center on Monday evening.

Both King and Snohomish Counties announced overflow sites were the sewer system is overflowing due to storm water.

Seattle weather calendar says rain today is no surprise

For those who follow the Seattle weather calendar, rain today should not have been a surprise.

November 19 is statistically the most likely day to have rain in Seattle, as it has rained a whopping 88 times in the past 119 years, according to this chart.

Make that 89 out of 120.

No other day on that chart is even close (second-wettest is 81 times on Dec. 29). What's even more amazing about the gravitation of rain to this date is that the other dates surrounding the 19th have "only" had rain about 65 times -- about 20 percent less.

But to give an idea of how wet Monday was, in all those 88 times it's rained before on this date, it's never rained this much. Through 10 a.m., Seattle had already set its daily rainfall record with 1.48" of rain, breaking the old record of 1.23" set in 1962, and the rain was still coming down.

Heavy rains were expected to taper off Monday evening but several more storms are lined up to keep the rain going through Thanksgiving weekend.

Peak Gusts In Windstorm:
  • Naselle Ridge: 114 mph (2,000 feet)
  • Crystal Mountain Ski: 107 mph
  • Megler Tower (1.200 feet; near Astoria): 101 mph
  • Yaqina Head (OR): 98 mph
  • Astoria: 92 mph
  • Lincoln City: 85 mph
  • Newport: 80 mph
  • Cape Disappointment: 76 mph
  • Pacific City (OR): 75 mph
  • Warrenton: 69 mph
  • Hoquiam: 61 mph
  • Tillamook: 59 mph
  • Everett: 49 mph
  • Olympia: 41 mph
  • Seattle (Boeing Field: 40 mph)
  • Alki Beach: 40 mph
  • Tacoma: 39 mph
  • Seattle: 36 mph
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