Quiet storm on Saturday expected to roar by today

This one, the second of three predicted this week, to be ‘biggest’

Wind and rain were reported on the North Olympic Peninsula on Saturday morning and early afternoon as a storm began to creep into a region still recovering from a massive downpour Nov. 15.

Although rain fell heavily in some areas of the Peninsula, the most intense weather was expected overnight. The National Weather Service issued a flood watch from Saturday evening through this afternoon.

“So far, so good,” said Clallam County Sheriff Ron Cameron, head of the emergency operations center, early Saturday afternoon.

But emergency management officials were bracing for more.

“This next round of rain is the biggest one we expect” from the three storms that began with the one on Thanksgiving Day and which will end with a storm predicted to hit on Tuesday, Cameron said Saturday.

Forecasters expect heavy rainfall to force a sharp rise in rivers and create more opportunities for landslides in the Olympic and northern Cascades regions as this weekend’s “atmospheric river” invades the region.

“I’m less concerned about flooding than I am about slides,” Cameron said.

“We’re kind of keeping an eye on that. After what happened in Clallam Bay, that slide will be there for a while.”

Storms on Nov. 15 caused a slide on state Highway 112 near Clallam Bay that was about 325 feet high and 275 feet wide. State Department of Transportation crews have been clearing debris but officials said that repairs will take some time.

Cameron said Friday that the massive slide continues to move because it’s so wet.

DOT had no estimate last week on when the roadway at that slide area and another on U.S. Highway 101 south of Forks would be fully open. Highway 112 remains fully closed, blocking access to Neah Bay, while Highway 101 south of Forks was opened to alternating traffic, but the hillside must be repaired to fully reopen the highway.

The extensive damage at state Highway 112 at mileposts 15.8 near Clallam Bay and 32 near Jim Creek as well as Highway 101 south of Forks will require emergency contracts to repair, DOT said.

The Clallam County Public Utility District managed a workaround the 112 slide, which also broke a water main, to resume water service in Clallam Bay.

The West End was completely shut off after the Nov. 15 storm because of three landslides triggered that day between mileposts 220 and 231 on Highway 101 around Lake Crescent. DOT crews cleared more than 5,000 yards of gravel and debris from the slides and the highway was reopened on Nov. 19.

The Elwha River Bridge on U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles was reopened Nov. 17 after it had been shut down as a precaution due to the Nov. 15 storms.

With state Highway 112 closed, it’s key that U.S. Highway 101 along Lake Crescent stay open to maintain vehicle access to the West End, Cameron noted on Friday.

“As long as they keep the lake open, I’ll be happy,” Cameron said.

Both Clallam and East Jefferson counties suffered electrical power outages on Nov. 15, with the Jefferson County PUD reporting more than 11,000 without power at the peak of the storm — “one of the biggest outage incidents we’ve had in years,” the PUD reported on its Twitter feed.

As of early Saturday afternoon, Jefferson County had reported no outages and Clallam County had reported nine.

Atmospheric rivers are huge plumes of moisture extending over the Pacific Ocean and into the Northwest.

The state is still assessing millions of dollars in damage from the last atmospheric river.

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a severe weather state of emergency in Clallam and Jefferson counties, as well as in Grays Harbor, Island, Lewis, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Mason, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom counties.

In northwest Washington’s Whatcom County, officials said damage costs could reach as high as $50 million.

Estimates have not been reported for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

The National Weather Service predicts another storm to arrive Tuesday and continue through Wednesday.

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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