Overnight rainstorms on Wednesday shattered a 32-year-old Seattle record and aided in suppressing multiple wildfires throughout the Northwest, officials said.
According to the National Weather Service, 1.31 inches of rain fell at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in a 24-hour period that ended Wednesday morning. By 6 a.m. Wednesday, 0.85 of an inch of rain had fallen since midnight, shattering the date’s record of 0.33 of an inch set in 1982.
The monthly average rainfall for all of August is under an inch.
“This is fairly uncommon for summer months,” said Josh Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
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Seattle City Light reported it had about 4,300 customers without power early Wednesday in the White Center area. The power was restored later Wednesday morning.
The record-breaking downpour was especially unwelcome in Bellevue’s Factoria neighborhood, where early-morning flooding at an oil-change shop created a hazardous mess that spread onto Factoria Boulevard Southeast and possibly into nearby Coal Creek.
At some point around 3 or 4 a.m., almost 2 inches of rain had fallen, flooding Formula-1 Fast Lube, a few cars and part of Factoria Boulevard Southeast with 3 to 4 feet of water. The water lifted oil out of the lube shop and spread all over the street, parking lot and sidewalk nearby.
Drainage was apparently slowed by a filter that Bellevue city workers had previously placed over a storm drain to prevent hazardous materials used in a repaving of Factoria Boulevard Southeast from entering Coal Creek, said city spokeswoman Tresa Berg.
Crews got to the scene by about 4:30 a.m. to lift the filter out of the storm drain, and that quickly drained the backup. Berg said she had no idea how much oil had been dispersed in the area. The filter has since been reinserted into the drain because Berg said that in the absence of an unpredictable downpour, the filter does its job without creating problems.
“Nobody I asked knew it would rain like this last night,” Berg said. “I was more worried about fire hazards because of the lightning and how dry it’s been.”
Floodwaters didn’t enter other businesses nearby but did slow the number of customers they usually see in the morning.
The flood was gone in time for the morning commute, but cleanup work that lasted until about noon and reports about the flooding kept many customers from coming into businesses such as Taco Bell and Spotless Cleaning.
“There were no customers this morning, and that’s when we’re usually busy,” said Boon Seo, owner of Spotless Cleaning, on Wednesday afternoon. “More are coming in now, but it’s still too slow.”
Rain also fell over many of the region’s large fires, which, along with cooler temperatures, will moderate fire behavior, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
The Carlton complex fire in Okanogan County is 95 percent contained. The Chiwaukum complex fire is 40 percent contained, and officials said fire behavior is “expected to be more benign” as a result of the rainfall.
Two Arizona-based hotshot crew members fighting the South Cle Elum Ridge fire were injured Wednesday afternoon when a large log rolled down a steep slope and hit them. They were taken to Harborview Medical Center in stable condition.
Humidity levels rose throughout the Devil’s Elbow complex fire on the Colville Indian Reservation, making planned burnouts difficult, but the rain and cooler temperatures made direct suppression easier.
However, lightning from the storms may have ignited new fires that could show up later, the coordination center said.
Material from Seattle Times reporters Alexa Vaughn, Paige Cornwell and Jennifer Sullivan was used in this report.