Editor’s note: This is a live account of weather updates from Thursday, Jan. 6, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated.
With heavy snow continuing in Washington’s mountains, the Northwest Avalanche Center has issued warnings for the Cascade and Olympic mountains due to “very dangerous avalanche conditions.”
Continued rain and snow melt Thursday will also contribute to landslide risks and could cause serious flooding at lowland rivers throughout the region. Conditions forced the Washington State Department of Transportation to close Snoqualmie, Stevens, White and Blewett passes likely until Sunday.
We’re updating this page with the latest news about the weather and its effects on Washington.
Major flooding expected in low lying areas near Raymond, flood warnings issued for multiple rivers
High river flows and anomalously high tides flooded low lying areas in Raymond including portions of Highway 101 near Willapa Avenue Thursday night.
The flooding affected numerous roads downstream from Frances to Raymond, including State Route 6 and Highway 101, according to the National Weather Service.
Flood warnings were issued this afternoon and into Friday for the Willapa River affecting Pacific County and the Naselle River affecting Pacific and Wahkiakum
The Willapa River is expected to crest over 24 feet, a historic level, according to The National Weather Service. Numerous homes in the area and the Willapa Hatchery at Fork Creek were completely flooded.
Flooding and river levels across Washington can be monitored on the NWS' Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website.
River flooding expected across Puget Sound region, National Weather Service says
Several areas across the Puget Sound are experiencing river flooding caused by heavy rain and snow melt, according to the National Weather Service.
King County issued an alert just before 6 p.m. for minor flooding in areas near Issaquah Creek. About a half hour later, the county issued an alert that the Tolt River had also reached phase 2 and that minor flooding was expected.
River flooding and levels can be monitored on the NWS' Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website.
The Snoqualmie, Stevens, White and Blewett passes to likely remain closed until Sunday
The Snoqualmie, Stevens, White and Blewett passes will likely remain closed through Sunday due to dangerous conditions preventing crews from clearing the areas, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
More snow and rain are expected in the passes Thursday night increasing avalanche danger, WSDOT said.
Weather conditions continue to be too dangerous for crews to clear the passes, the agency said, and snow and debris continue to slide into the highways. WSDOT said it will spend Friday addressing avalanche issues to create a safe work zone to clear the passes.
Crews plan to spend Saturday plowing and clearing trees and debris from roads, removing snow and ice from signs and clearing catch basins, WSDOT said.
Continued heavy rain and snow melt throughout the region is increasing landslide risks, the agency said.
All lanes on stretch of Maple Valley Highway near Renton closed due to landslide
All lanes on the 2200 block of Maple Valley Highway in Renton are closed due to a landslide incident Thursday evening, according to the Renton Fire Authority.
The hillside appears to be unstable and officials are asking people to avoid the area as officials assess the hill's stability and work to clear the road, the agency said. No injuries were reported.
Dirt, mud and trees are blocking the westbound lanes, according to City of Renton officials. There is no estimated time for reopening the highway.
Prepare for repeat, longer outages in mountains, PSE warns
Puget Sound Energy warned customers living in mountain regions Thursday afternoon to prepare for longer than normal and repeated outages due to the winter storm.
Outages are occurring in mountain pass regions due to heavy snow weighing down trees and branches, the utility said. Hyak, Easton and Greenwater along Interstate 90 and Skyomish along Highway 2 have been especially hard-hit, the utility said.
The crews have been challenged by pass closures, equipment limitations due to the deep snow and avalanche danger, officials said. There is also "potential for repeated outages" due to rapidly changing weather throughout the weekend.
"Our crews continue to work around the clock as it’s safe to do so. However, we encourage customers to prepare for longer than normal outages due to these challenging conditions," the utility said.
How to get through a power outage
Follow these tips to help get through a power outage:
- Have a power-outage kit that includes flashlights and batteries, glow-in-the-dark sticks, a lantern, matches, a wind-up clock, a portable radio, a Mylar blanket and a can opener.
- To avoid deadly carbon-monoxide poisoning, keep generators outdoors when they’re running. Make sure the exhaust is not near a window or other opening to the home. Keep the exhaust and muffler away from combustible material.
- Never burn charcoal indoors. Charcoal produces toxic fumes that can kill quickly. Use this multi-language page to help warn your neighbors.
- Use hot water sparingly.
- Turn off most electrical devices, and unplug sensitive electrical equipment. Leave a light switched on, however, so you’ll know when the power returns.
- Never handle or approach a downed power line.
- Dress in layers and cover your head. Close off unused rooms. Close drapes to prevent drafts.
- Use only space heaters designed for the indoors. Even those need to be adequately vented to avoid carbon-monoxide poisoning. Keep space heaters away from curtains and clothing. Always turn off the heaters before going to bed or leaving home.
- Get fresh air and get help right away if you feel sick or dizzy while using a generator or space heater. Fatigue, nausea or sleepiness are signs of carbon-monoxide poisoning.
- Check on your neighbors.
- Seattle City Light outage hotline, 206-684-7400; www.seattle.gov/light/
- Puget Sound Energy outage reporting, 888-225-5773; www.pse.com/safetyReliability/pseservicealert/Pages/Default.aspx
Skokomish Valley residents asked to evacuate or shelter in place as floodwaters rise
Residents living in flood-prone areas in the Skokomish Valley are advised to prepare to evacuate or shelter in place for at least 72 hours as river floodwaters continue to rise rapidly, leading to potential flooding and road closures.
Floodwaters in the area are expected to rise up more than 17 feet by midnight, according to an emergency alert from the Mason County's department of emergency management.
The 800 line and Ellis Hill Road are closed to traffic and officials said additional road closures are expected. Residents should limit travel and be aware of current river conditions, officials said.
How to prepare for Seattle-area storms
How to prepare:
- Get an emergency kit ready. King County Emergency Management offers tips for stocking it.
- Make a plan and practice it with your household. Locate an interior room that can be used as shelter during high winds.
- Secure loose gutters and shutters.
- Clean storm drains.
- Make a list of items outside that must be tied down or put away.
- For live information on emergency shelters and safety tips, the Red Cross urges people to download its mobile application.
- The National Weather Services provides preparation help here.
Here’s a list of resources to monitor how the stormy weather impacts the region.
School schedule changes:
Information on cancellations and different operating hours is here.
Lost power? Here’s what to do:
Seattle City Light also reports outages with this online map. That utility says to report outages to the Customer Service line at 206-684-3000.
Don’t touch or go near a downed power line or anything in contact with it. The wires are extremely dangerous. Seattle City Light suggests staying at least 20 feet away from a downed line.
Also, never use gas ovens, barbecues or portable propane or kerosene heaters for indoor heating. They use oxygen and create carbon monoxide that can cause suffocation.
Here are some tips on how to stay safe and keep your home secure.
Tracking Washington state’s 2021-22 snowpack through maps and charts
How much Washington’s snow accumulates during the annual snow season has implications throughout the year. The snowpack is considered a crucial climate-related variable in the Pacific Northwest that affects water supplies to agriculture, to fish, to hydropower production and recreation.
Washington’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs rely on the mountain snow to supply water through the summer months. The state’s agriculture and outdoor recreation industries also depend on the snowpack for irrigation and water to support salmon and other fish habitats. The annual snow season typically lasts from October to May each year.
We’re tracking this season’s snowpack through maps and charts to better understand our water supply in 2022.
'Turn around, don't drown,' says weather service about flooded roads
Major flooding is expected along sections of the Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers in Lewis and Thurston counties, according to warnings issued by the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” according to a weather service alert. “Creeks and streams may rise out of their banks. Melting lowland snow will contribute to the flood potential and to soil saturation, and thus increasing the threat of landslides.”
Potentially cresting at 215.3 feet, the Skookumchuck River is expected to cause major flooding in the Bucoda area of Thurston County, with "deep and swift" waters inundating roads and residential areas, according to a weather service alert. Flooding will also occur on the Skookumchuck in Centralia, Lewis County.
The Newaukum River at Chehalis is predicted to crest on Thursday night less than an inch below the 1996 record of 205.5 feet and just below “major flooding” designation, according to the weather service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.
The Newaukum is expected to flood all along the river, in Centralia and surrounding areas, including farmlands, the weather service said.
Major flooding is also expected at the Chehalis River at Grand Mound, according to the weather service. Forecasts show the river is expected to crest Friday afternoon about 2 feet below the historic 2007 crest of 147.3 feet.
In Thurston County, the Chehalis River is forecast to inundate roads and farmlands in Independence Valley. Deep and swift waters are predicted to cover Highway 12 at James, Independence and Moon roads.
Because most deaths from flooding occur in cars, the weather service warns drivers not to drive on flooded roads or around barriers.
"Turn around, don't drown," the weather service said in an alert.
Storms push statewide snow pack to 122% of long-term averages
These are boom times for Washington’s mountain snowpack, a vast frozen reservoir vital to sustaining many of the state’s rivers and streams. As of Wednesday, the cold, wet weather of December and early January has pushed the statewide snowpack to 122% of the norm measured during a three-decade period ending in 2020.
This is the second year in a row that the early winter snowpack looks promising for providing strong water flows into the summer months. Last year, however, an unusually hot, dry spring caused an extraordinarily rapid melt and gave way to record heat in June and a summer drought in parched forests.
No estimated reopening for Blewett Pass
Another pass is closed due to heavy snow and poor visibility.
Highway 97's Blewett Pass is closed in both directions from milepost 149.7, at the junction with Highway 970, and milepost 177.99 at Ingalls Creek Road.
There is currently no estimated time for reopening, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The department said updates will be provided should an extended closure become necessary.
How to find landslide risk areas in Snohomish County
With rain and melting snow raising landslide risks throughout Western Washington, some emergency management departments are urging people to know the signs of landslides and how to search for risk areas online.
Tilted trees, cracks in the ground, sunken roads are warnings of a potential slide, according to the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.
Snohomish County was the site of the massive 2014 landslide in Oso that ripped through the area, killing 43 people and destroying dozens of homes.
You can look for landslide and other hazards on the county's interactive maps here.
How to get alerts about emergencies in Washington state
A key part of emergency-preparedness is being aware of emergencies and natural disasters happening near you.
Be in the know and stay informed as situations unfold by signing up for various real-time alerts that can help you take potentially life-saving actions.
Warm front hits Seattle; temps up 8 degrees in 35 minutes
Usually, a 50 degree day at this time of year could be a welcome, though slight, warmup, but it's part of the reason why we're looking at serious flooding concerns in Western Washington and particularly in the southwestern part of the state.
The higher temperatures hit Seattle before 10 a.m. Thursday, rising 8 degrees within 35 minutes, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.
On Friday, temperatures will drop slightly to about 47 degrees and are expected to remain in that range through the weekend, when we could also get a break from the rain and perhaps even see some sun.
Our normal temperatures for this time of year are in the mid- to upper 40s, say weather service meteorologists.
Seattle-area skiers will have to hit the slopes another day
With the three primary cross-state mountain passes — Stevens, Snoqualmie and White — closed, Seattle-area skiers will have to hit the slopes another day.
On its website, The Summit at Snoqualmie announced that no ski areas would open Thursday due to the extended closure over I-90. "We plan to reopen Friday, Jan. 7," Summit's website notes. That statement likely does not reflect the closure until Saturday, Jan. 8.
Meanwhile, Stevens Pass, nestled on the pass of the same name on Highway 2, also closed Thursday and was less concrete in its opening aspirations. On its website, the ski area stated it "will reopen once conditions allow and as Highway 2 reopens." As of the Washington Department of Transportation's latest pass report, at 9:07 a.m. Thursday, "There is no detour available and currently no estimated time for reopening."
To round out the Seattle-area ski trifecta, Crystal Mountain announced at 5:30 a.m. that the resort "will be closed due to multiple down trees on Highway 410, wind and rain."
It's the latest snafu in a ski season marked by bumpy runs, as Crystal Mountain has gone back and forth on reservations and Stevens Pass is beleaguered by customer complaints about staffing.
What to do if your pipes burst
When temperatures creep below freezing, pipes can burst when frozen water expands. While there are ways to prepare your pipes ahead of freezing temperatures, here are some tips on what to do if a pipe bursts or freezes.
White Pass closed until Saturday
Due to dangerous weather conditions from falling trees and snow sloughs, White Pass will remain closed until Saturday, Jan. 8, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. Highway 12 over White Pass remains closed between Packwood at milepost 135 and Oak Creek at milepost 183.
Snoqualmie Pass closed until Saturday
Due to dangerous weather conditions from falling trees and avalanche danger, I-90 Snoqualmie Pass will remain closed until Saturday, Jan. 8, according to the Washington Department of Transportation.
I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass is closed between North Bend at milepost 34 and Ellensburg at milepost 106. "Currently, conditions are too dangerous for crews to safely make an assessment and more inclement weather is forecasted for the next 24 hours," the department said
Take extra steps to protect your pipes
A single pipe burst can cost $1,000 to $4,000 in water damage cleanup and repair fees, according to HomeAdvisor. Though water damage from a burst pipe inside your home is typically covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, dealing with the cleanup and filing a claim can be a hassle.
The main reason pipes burst? “It’s almost always temperature-related,” says Michael Mccan, plumbing manager at Michael & Son Services in Alexandria, Virginia. “Any water line that goes below 32 degrees can freeze.” When the water inside a pipe freezes, the ice causes an increase in pressure; when the pressure gets too high, it ruptures.
The good news? There are precautions you can take to protect your home’s pipes from freezing — and even thaw frozen pipes safely before they burst.
'When snow melts, land slides': Know the warning signs of an impending landslide
Tilting trees, cracking sidewalks, sunken road beds and sagging or taut utility lines can be a warning of impending landslides, which can happen in urban areas as easily as more remote ones, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Rain and snow pose flooding risks, extreme avalanche danger, close Washington’s cross-state passes
Just stay away from the mountains Thursday if you can — and maybe the rivers, too.
Three primary cross-state mountain passes — Stevens, Snoqualmie and White — are closed. The Northwest Avalanche Center has issued warnings for the Cascade and Olympic mountains due to “very dangerous avalanche conditions.”
Continued rain and snow melt as the day warms contribute to landslide risks and could cause serious flooding at lowland rivers throughout the region.
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