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Potent storm closes 80-mile stretch of I-90 until Thursday, floods streets and homes

I-90 closure from North Bend to Ellensburg Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo: KOMO News)
I-90 closure from North Bend to Ellensburg Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo: KOMO News)
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Extreme weather conditions triggered chaos across the state Wednesday, closing Interstate 90 over the Cascade Mountains until at least Thursday morning, flooding some roadways and homes in the Puget Sound lowlands and closing down schools across Eastern Washington.

The Washington State Patrol closed nearly 80 miles of I-90 in both directions, from North Bend to Ellensburg, due to extremely dangerous conditions.

To make matters worse, a collision between a car and semi truck east of Stevens Pass was stopping traffic late Wednesday afternoon. Eastbound and westbound traffic had to alternate to use U.S. Route 2 for about two hours. All lanes reopened around 7:30 p.m., but chains are required.

Officials say I-90 over the mountains will remain closed all day and all night Wednesday. Crews will re-evaluate conditions on Thursday morning.

There were reports of rocks and trees falling on the freeway between North Bend and Snoqualmie Pass. On the other side of the pass, snow slides and freezing rain have made the highway impassable.

State transportation officials say the highway conditions are so dangerous that crews can't even go out and begin clearing away the debris.

State troopers say they responded to 67 collisions around Snoqualmie Pass overnight as the storm dumped snow, sleet and freezing rain onto the highway, toppling trees and triggering rock slides.

Several other roadways also were closed east of the mountain passes, including Highway 243 about seven miles south of I-90, where several semi trucks jackknifed on the ice.

Meanwhile, in the Western Washington lowlands, heavy rain and flooding are wreaking havoc, with standing water covering many roadways.

Over two inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period at Sea-Tac Airport. Near Forks, nearly 3 1/2 inches of rain fell during the same period.

A flood watch was issued through Wednesday evening for Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Mason, Whatcom, King, Lewis and Pierce counties. A flood advisory was issued in Kitsap County.

At least one home was flooded, in Des Moines. Nearby drains weren't able to keep up with the steady downpour overnight, which sent water cascading into the home.

"I've been here 15 years and never had something like this before," said the homeowner, Scott Hanson. "It's like a nightmare or something."

Numerous crashes also were stalling the morning commute all around the Puget Sound metro area.

Along the Washington coast, Highway 109 was closed in both directions near Moclips for several hours due to falling trees.

Strong winds also toppled trees and knocked out power to some residents near the coast, including the town of Westport. High winds also were reported in Whatcom, San Juan and Island counties.

Farther south, a 45-mile stretch of Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge, between Troutdale and Hood River, Ore., will remain closed all day and a section of the same highway near Ontario, in eastern Oregon, was also closed.

Highway 14 also was closed in southwest Washington state between Washougal and White Salmon due to continuous snow slides.

The Oregon Army National Guard was placed on standby in case it is needed to escort emergency vehicles through the Gorge.

In Eastern Washington, Spokane International Airport was closed overnight due to an ice storm, but has since reopened. Several flights were canceled during the closure.

Central Washington University in Ellensburg and Eastern Washington University in Cheney canceled all classes due to dangerously icy conditions on the roads.

Washington State University in Pullman canceled all classes Wednesday.


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This is a developing news story. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

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