Worst of rainfall over on Peninsula

Atmospheric river unleashes flooding, downed trees

The rain will keep falling heavily elsewhere, but Clallam and Jefferson counties had weathered the brunt of the “atmospheric river” forecast for the state by late Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

“It depends on where you are. For much of the (North Olympic) Peninsula, the rain already has shifted to the south and the east,” said meteorologist Kirby Cook with the National Weather Service in Seattle, on Tuesday.

“So it’s not raining in Forks, but it’s raining heavily in Seattle,” Cook said then. “Port Angeles to Port Townsend have been sheltered by the Olympics. So you have seen a lot less. In terms of rainfall, you guys are out of the woods.”

The Skokomish River in Mason County and the Satsop and Chehalis rivers in Grays Harbor County were expected to rise above flood stage on Wednesday morning, Cook said.

“The heavy rain is pretty well done over there. The atmospheric river has shifted south. So the rain has moved to the east and the south for the most part,” he said.

Clallam County’s 24-hour precipitation totals as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday were 2.51 inches at Forks, 2.38 inches at Quillayute, 0.94 to 1.98 inches at nine Port Angeles locations, and 0.47 to 0.60 inches at six Sequim locations.

Jefferson County’s 24-hour precipitation totals as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday were 2.1 to 2.64 inches in Brinnon, 1.12 inches in Quilcene, 0.42 inches in Chimacum, and 0.27 inches to 0.39 inches at 11 locations in Port Townsend.

NWS meteorologist Steve Reedy in Seattle said Tuesday evening that despite published forecasts, the current radar trend puts the North Olympic Peninsula out of the bulk of the impending rainfall.

“Looking into Wednesday and beyond, your chances for precipitation start in the teens and dip down into the single digits from there. Those published precipitation chances are awfully high. I’m not sure where that forecaster got those,” he said Tuesday.

Reedy said the radar shows that, by today, things should calm down. By tonight, the chance bounces up to 60 to 70 percent, but it will be mostly light.

“There’s a high probability for a low amount of precipitation,” he said.

The snow depth at Waterhole Snow Telemetry site at Hurricane Ridge had dropped from 20 inches to 8 inches as of Tuesday. The snow water equivalent for the Olympic Mountains basin is 59 percent of normal.

Olympic National Park announced Dec. 1 it was closing coastal campgrounds through Monday due to high winds. ONP spokeswoman Molly Pittman said Tuesday she didn’t know if they still were closed.

“When weather conditions are severe enough to threaten public safety, our law enforcement is authorized to conduct temporary closures,” she said.

The state Department of Transportation issued numerous reports of downed trees and water over the roadway Monday and overnight Tuesday.

Downed trees blocking both lanes of state Highway 20 at Anderson Lake Road were reported at about 7 p.m. Monday. They were cleared by 8:55 p.m.

Water was reported over the roadway Monday in both directions on state Highway 110 from milepost 8 near Mora Road to milepost 8.8 near Herminson Road. It was cleared by 10:51 a.m.

The water reappeared over both lanes of Highway 110 at 4:42 a.m. Tuesday from milepost 8 near Mora Road to milepost 8.8 near Herminson Road. DOT did not indicate when the road reopened.

Trees were reported blocking the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 101 at 9:38 p.m. Monday at milepost 151 near the Grays Harbor/Jefferson County line. They were cleared by 11:26 p.m.

Trees were reported down at 10:09 p.m. Monday on northbound U.S. Highway 101 at milepost 158.35 near the Kalaloch city limits. The southbound lane was blocked at 11:06 p.m. Both lanes were cleared by 11:40 p.m.

Highway 112 was closed in both directions due to water over the roadway at 1:46 a.m. Tuesday at milepost 23.12 near state Route 113 (Burnt Mountain Road) to milepost 28.9 (Pillar Point Road).

A mudslide was reported on the Lower Duckabush Road between Shorewood and Kelley roads shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday. The Jefferson County Roads Department cleared the scene and opened the road.

Brinnon Fire Department Chief Tim Manly wrote in a Tuesday afternoon email: “All is well. The road is open, and Jefferson County Roads Department will monitor the slide.”

One fortunate outcome was no closure of the Elwha River Bridge. State engineers become concerned about it whenever the streamflow exceeds 20,000 cubic feet per second, according to Clallam County Emergency Management Director Ron Cameron.

The river was forecasted to crest at 23,400 cubic feet per second at 8 a.m. Tuesday, he said. If the river had exceeded that threshold, the bridge would have had to be closed for a day or more while engineers conducted safety inspections.

April Leigh, DOT spokeswoman, wrote in a Tuesday morning email that engineers monitored the bridge throughout the night and on Tuesday morning the river was dropping below levels that would require a closure. (Real-time river updates are available at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Elwha River Hydrology Map, located at https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?gage=elww1&wfo=sew.)

Clallam PUD spokeswoman Nicole Hartman wrote in a Tuesday email that the district experienced outages of “one or two customers here and there but nothing significant.”

Jefferson County PUD reported a brief outage beginning at 7 a.m. Monday affecting 2,044 customers in the Port Ludlow area. It lasted until 7:55 a.m.

“The cause of the outage was a branch across multiple phases of distribution line. When an object such as a branch contacts our lines, it automatically triggers safety measures to ensure that no damage occurs to larger equipment. Once a line crew clears the object and lines, the area can be re-energized,” wrote Jefferson County PUD spokesman Jameson Hawn in a Tuesday afternoon email.

The utility experienced a similar outage from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Monday that affected 108 customers in the Chimacum area. The cause was a tree on the line.


Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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