PORT ANGELES — Forks residents mobilized Monday to fight heavy rainfall, filling and distributing sandbags to residents as they watched city streets begin to flood and learned road access from the West End to Port Angeles was cut off.
Meanwhile, more than 11,000 Jefferson County Public Utility District customers were without power at the peak of the outages — “one of the biggest outage incidents we’ve had in years,” the PUD reported on its Twitter feed — and Brinnon School District sent children home late in the morning due to power going in and out.
Brinnon school officials were asking parents to pick up their children, if possible, as flood stages at rivers in Clallam and Jefferson counties were at or exceeded their breaking points by noon.
More than 1,000 were out of power in Clallam County, more than half of whom were between Carlsborg and Sequim, the PUD reported.
Shortly before noon Monday, PUD officials asked 350 Clallam Bay-Sekiu water customers plus the Clallam Bay Corrections Center to reduce water consumption as much as possible due to rainfall- and flooding-related electrical and communication failures at the Hoko Pump Station.
“It is imperative that adequate water levels are maintained in the reservoirs serving the Clallam Bay-Sekiu Area,” the utility said in a press release announcing the emergency water conservation alert.
The PUD said it would notify customers when the pump station is back online.
Wind gusts measured 51 mph at Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles on Monday morning and 58 mph at Seattle-Tac International Airport.
Forks city hall was largely empty as workers there joined the effort to fight the flooding.
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 Elwha River was at 20.4 feet, 0.4 feet above flood stage at noon Monday, while the Dungeness River was more than 1 foot below the threshold near Sequim but 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.
U.S. Highway 101 and state Highway 112 were closed in both directions at several locations due to flooding, cutting off road access to the city of 4,000 residents.
Forks Mayor Tim Fletcher said 11 homes were evacuated in the Three Rivers area and that portions of the city’s Ford Park were inundated.
By 11:30 a.m., he said the rain appeared to be abating and the wind was dying down.
“We know we are going to have some families staying in overnight shelters. Some houses have eight to 10 inches of water,” he said while home late Monday morning, changing into dry clothes to head out again.
“We’ve got people with critical emergencies in Jefferson County and are having a hard time getting emergency personnel to them.
“We just hope we don’t lose power.”
Public Works Director Paul Hampton said most of the sandbags were being filled at the water department compound on East Division Street, where residents were toiling away.
The bags were being taken to Ford Park while residents also picked them up to protect their own homes and neighbors.
“We’re making sandbags, and they’re coming and getting them, and we are delivering them to people who can’t get them,” said Hampton, who had been up since 4 a.m., bending to the task.
“The streets are passable, but they are flooding.”
U.S. Highway 101 was closed by the state Department of Transportation at 8:37 a.m. Monday morning in both directions near Sol Duc Hot Springs Road due to flooding between mileposts 220 and 231, shutting off access on the thoroughfare to and from Forks, Sekiu and the rest of the West End.
The DOT road closure near Sol Duc Hot Springs Road was one of several complete road closures due to flooding near and in the West End as the area continued to be inundated with rainfall.
Clallam County made an emergency declaration during its work session Monday, alerting the commissioners to the conditions across the county.
“We’ve had a major disruption due to storms on the west end of the county, including closures of 101, 112, Clallam Bay flooding, city of Forks flooding, causing transportation issues there,” Clallam County Human Resources Director Rick Sill said.
“We are looking at several different things in the way of weather,” said Paul Kelly, public information officer for Clallam County Emergency Management.
“There’s a lot of heavy rain on the west side of the county, and that is causing the rivers to rise and flood. All of the watersheds on the west side will be quite high. They’re in a temporary crest, but the full crest will not happen until (Tuesday),” Kelly said.
Kelly noted that while the rain may stop, there still will be slide danger for the rest of the week.
“The rain should come down overnight, so there will still be weather impacts out there, but the worst of it has passed,” said Kirby Cook, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
Heavy rainfall caused several road closures and a landslide that shut down 3 miles of Highway 101 in both directions.
The mudslide forced DOT to close Highway 101 at Milepost 185 near Kallman Road to Milepost 188 beginning at 2:45 a.m. and was initially cleared at 2:30 p.m. before a second slide occurred at 3:40 p.m.
State Highway 112 was shut down due to floodwaters in three areas. Closures affected at least eight other locations, mostly on the West End.
Closures occurred at the following locations:
•State Highway 112 between Milepost 20-28 beginning at 1:09 a.m.
•State Highway 112 between Milepost 20-29 near Pillar Point Road beginning at 3:20 a.m.
•State Highway 112 at Milepost 13 near Hoko-Ozette Road beginning at 4:27 a.m.
•State Highway 112 at Milepost 15. 8 near Clallam Bay West City Limits beginning at 11:19 a.m.
•State Highway 113 at Milepost 3 near Cold Creek beginning at 3:27 a.m. (Cleared at 3:40 p.m.)
•State Highway 110 at Milepost 8.6 near Kilmer Road beginning at 4:34 a.m.
•State Highway 101 at Milepost 225 near Lake Crescent at 11:30 a.m.
•State Highway 101 at Milepost 239.5 at 1:23 p.m. near Elwha River Bridge.
At 1 p.m. Monday, DOT announced that the Elwha River Bridge was closed due to floodwaters.
Before it can be reopened, DOT crews will evaluate if the flood water and debris has eroded the support structure of the bridge. Crews will investigate with structural engineers once it is safe to do so.
DOT also recommended that 101 travelers check the DOT app for additional road closures due to flooding, high winds and downed trees or power lines.
In Jefferson County, the PUD reported more than half of its 19,056 customers were without power. By 5 p.m. Monday, about 4,855 outages remained, according to its outage map.
At about 11:30 a.m., a large tree fell on one of the PUD’s transmission lines into Port Townsend, killing the power to much of the city and affecting about 7,070 customers, the PUD said in a tweet.
Officials rerouted some of the Port Townsend customers’ power to restore some early outages, said Will O’Donnell, PUD communications director.
Most of the outages in Jefferson County were relatively large, and that allowed the PUD to respond more quickly to repair, since they are normally caused by an issue with transmission and feeder lines, O’Donnell said.
“It’s just a lot of trees and branches on lines,” O’Donnell said.
As of 2:15 p.m., there were about 10 large outages in Jefferson County, with smaller ones still accumulating, O’Donnell said.
“We still have wind blowing and trees coming down, so there could be additional outages,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell anticipated the majority of the outages would be repaired by late Monday night.
Multiple sailings of the Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route were canceled due to the weather.
The National Weather Service has a flood advisory in effect for Clallam and Jefferson counties until noon. Inundated areas are expected to include Queets, La Push and Mount Olympus.
Minor flooding is predicted in low-lying and poor drainage areas.
Drivers are urged to turn around when encountering flooded roads and to be extra cautious at night, when it’s difficult to recognize the dangers of flooding.
People experiencing power outages are also encouraged to call their local PUD rather than 911, unless it is an emergency situation.
Rain is likely to last into today, and a flood watch is in effect until 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski and Clallam County reporter Ken Park contributed to this report.