Mount Rainier National Park was hammered by flooding and landslides that closed all roads to the park and damaged roads, trails and nationally important buildings.
The damage throughout the park is expected to be revealed as extensive as floodwaters recede and snow melts.
The news was announced Saturday night as drier weather had taken hold in much of the region, lasting at least through Monday. That should cause water levels to fall, according to the National Weather Service.
While the Green River near Auburn and the Snohomish River near Monroe saw flood levels rise Saturday, most rivers around the region had already reached their expected crest by midmorning and were beginning to recede, the weather service reported. Water remained over some roadways, including Highway 169, which runs along the Cedar River between Renton and Enumclaw. That river was expected to remain above flood stage into Monday.
The drenched soils allowed high winds to topple trees around the region Friday night, knocking out power to more than 48,000 Puget Sound Energy customers and smashing a sewer pipe in Olympia. A landslide Friday night on Highway 410 — one of many to hit the region in recent days — took down power lines and blocked the road, closing access to the Crystal Mountain ski resort Saturday and Sunday.
At Mount Rainier National Park, all roads were closed. There is no access to Paradise or the Longmire Historic Landmark District. Park staff had to clear an emergency access route to evacuate National Park Inn guests and remaining park staff at Longmire.
Continued flooding within the park is damaging roads, trails, and historic structures, including the National Park Inn and other nationally significant buildings. Early assessments indicate significant damage to roads, trails and utilities in multiple areas of the park has occurred because of the weather. Delays are anticipated in access to Longmire, Paradise, and the Carbon River area, even as other roads outside the park open.
A Friday night windstorm brought gusts as high as 47 mph at the Arlington airport and 44 mph in Bellevue. National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Reedy said there were reports of falling trees and damaged power lines from Bonney Lake, Sammamish, Bellevue and Tacoma.
In Olympia, wind blew a tree down onto a pedestrian bridge crossing Percival Creek, breaking a sewer pipe. An undetermined amount of sewage spilled into the creek and Thurston County health officials urged people to keep themselves and their pets away from the water below Cooper Point Bridge, including Percival Cove, Capitol Lake and inner Budd Inlet.
The city plans to schedule water-quality testing in the area Monday. While drinking-water pressure was briefly reduced, the city said there were no concerns about drinking-water quality and pressure has been restored.
The windstorm was fairly typical, Reedy said, noting that the region usually sees one or two of this strength each winter. But its arrival at the end of a five-week period of nearly continuous rain that saturated and loosened soils enhanced the potential for damage.
Highway 410 was closed in both directions from Mud Mountain Road, at milepost 29, to east of the town of Greenwater, at milepost 49. A Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson said power had been restored to Greenwater and road crews had assessed the slide damage Saturday. They planned to work to clear debris Sunday, but it was too early to say when the road would reopen.
As of midnight Friday, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had received 12.4 inches of rain since Jan. 1. That’s almost double the average of 6.5 inches during the same period, Reedy said. Last year, only 4.76 inches had fallen by this point.
“Seattle has a reputation for seeing a lot of rainfall but this is ridiculous,” he said.
A pair of atmospheric rivers, like the one that finally relented overnight, boosted the rainfall totals. Most locations received rain on 28 of the 31 days in January.
“We just never really caught a good breather,” Reedy said, but that changes today. “We caught a glimpse of blue sky.”
Staff reporter Lynda V. Mapes contributed to this report.