FORKS — Forks and Neah Bay residents remained cut off Tuesday by continued highway closures due to massive flooding and landslides from Monday’s storms.
A slide damaged a major water main in Sekiu and a group of volunteer pilots worked to take water to the communities of Sekiu and Clallam Bay.
A record was set at the Quillayute Airport near Forks for the most daily rainfall recorded on Nov. 15 during Monday’s rainstorms, with 4.05 inches of rain observed between midnight Sunday to midnight Tuesday morning, according to National Weather Service (NWS) Seattle Meteorologist Mike McFarland.
As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, 527 Jefferson County Public Utility District customers remained without electricity after working overnight to restore power to customers who numbered more than 11,000 at the peak of the outages on Monday.
Crews expected to work overnight to today to continue to restore power, PUD Communications Director Will O’Donnell said.
Clallam County PUD listed four Clallam County and 186 West Jefferson County customers still without power as of about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
In Forks, severe flooding from Monday’s storms had cleared in many areas by Tuesday afternoon, but many were urged to stay sheltered since roads out of the town were closed, said Lissy Andros, Forks Chamber of Commerce executive director.
As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, road closures continued on U.S. Highway 101 at the Elwha River bridge and near Lake Crescent, as well as south near milepost 185 at the West Jefferson/Clallam County line, said Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Cameron, Emergency Management Department director.
State Highway 112 west of Joyce was also closed in multiple places, blocking access by road to Neah Bay, Cameron said.
“Access to the West End of Clallam County is completely shut down,” Cameron said. “Everyone west of Sekiu is stuck.
“They can’t get anywhere past Sekiu and Clallam Bay to get into Port Angeles.”
A major mudslide on state Highway 112 near Milepost 16 between Clallam Bay and Sekiu completely blocked the road, Cameron said.
An access road is available for emergency responders to travel between Clallam Bay and Sekiu, but that road is not open to the public, Cameron said.
There was no estimated time of reopening of those roads as of 3:30 p.m., and some of the cleanup for the slides is expected to take multiple days, Cameron said.
That slide is believed to have damaged a water main, causing Sekiu to be without fresh water, Cameron said.
Clallam Bay is also under an extreme water conservation notice due to the water main break making it impossible to fill the area’s reservoir, according to the Clallam County PUD.
In response to the lack of fresh water, the Disaster Airlift Response Team (DART) was activated to fly about 180 cases of water into Sekiu on Tuesday afternoon.
Six volunteer pilots flew out on Tuesday, with one helicopter used to assess storm damage, and five planes carrying five to 24 cases of water at a time, flying from Port Angeles to Sekiu, said Alan Barnard, DART founder.
They made 10 flights to bring in 100 cases of water Tuesday and will fly in 50 cases today, Barnard said.
Tuesday was the first large-scale activation for DART, Barnard said, adding it allowed the team to test its procedures and logistics, and everything went well.
High water levels kept state Department of Transportation officials from examining damage at the Elwha Bridge on Highway 101 on Tuesday morning, Cameron said.
They managed to do so Tuesday afternoon, he said.
The Elwha River was at 20.4 feet, 0.4 feet above flood stage at noon Monday.
The bridge remained closed on Tuesday.
Jefferson County power outages have been difficult to fix since many small or individual outages are discovered after a large outage gets repaired, O’Donnell said.
The Jefferson PUD has had teams from Mason County PUD 1 and Grays Harbor PUD assisting them, O’Donnell said.
“The challenge is, as they get through the larger outages, they keep finding smaller ones,” O’Donnell said Tuesday afternoon. “We just have so much damage from the wind and the rain.
“As we keep knocking down the big ones, we’re finding more and more scattered individual outages. It takes time to get to those ones.”
Between 4 a.m. Monday to 4 a.m. Tuesday, Port Angeles received about 1.35 inches of rain, Port Townsend received 0.4 to 0.6 inches and Brinnon received about 2.6 inches, McFarland said.
No serious flooding was reported in Brinnon.
During the peak of the windstorm that accompanied Monday’s rain, Port Angeles experienced gusts of about 50 mph, Sequim had 35 to 45 mph winds, Port Townsend had 45 to 52 mph winds, and Forks had 35 mph winds in town, with 40 to 50 mph winds in exposed areas, McFarland said.
The Bochachiel River was at 44.6 feet at 11:30 a.m. Monday, more than 7 feet above flood stage, according to the National Weather Service.
The Dungeness River was at flood stage at the mouth at Sequim.
The Big Quilcene River in Jefferson County was at flood stage as well — 3.26 feet — at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
By 4 p.m. Tuesday, all of those rivers were below their flood stages.
The weather today and Thursday is expected to be clear of rain, with some overcast skies.
A minor front is expected Thursday night, but with only about a quarter of an inch of rain, McFarland said.