'Everything's Just Saturated'

'Everything's Just Saturated' »Play Video
SEATTLE - Another day of heavy rains in Seattle have brought several mudslides around the area that are causing problems both on the roads and on the rails.

Anywhere from 1/2 to an inch of rain Tuesday caused mudslides that halted Amtrak passenger train service early Tuesday between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Portland, Ore., officials said.

Other slides spilled onto Interstate 5 between Olympia and Tacoma and forced the evacuation of a University of Washington fraternity annex in Seattle.

The I-5 slide blocked the northbound lanes near Nisqually, but the slide was cleared just before 11 a.m. and traffic was getting back to normal.

A mudslide also blocked all lanes of SR-20 just east of Concrete in Skagit County.

No injuries were reported from any of the slides.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the railroad tracks, said mud, rocks and trees spilled onto tracks in three places: one a few miles south of Tacoma, and two north Edmonds, about 15 miles north of Seattle.

Buses were carrying Amtrak passengers around the slides and replaced Sound Transit's Sounder commuter trains between Seattle and Everett. Sounder trains were still rolling between Seattle and Tacoma, said Lee Somerstein, spokesman for Sound Transit, a mass transit agency serving King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Melonas said closures affecting passenger rail service would remain in effect at least 48 hours for safety reasons.

The slides did not halt freight trains, which continued running at reduced speeds on parallel tracks north and south of Seattle, Melonas said.

On Tuesday, state Department of Transportation crews spent the morning clearing debris from a mudslide that blocked a northbound lane on Interstate 5 near the Pierce-Thurston county line. The blocked lane was reopened by late morning.

Heavy snowfall in the mountains prompted temporary lane closures on Interstate-90 over Snoqualmie Pass on Tuesday, as Transportation Department crews did some avalanche control work.

On the Kitsap Peninsula, a 2.5-mile section of State Route 166 in Port Orchard remained closed on Tuesday, as geologists tested an unstable slope above the road. It was closed after a mudslide early Saturday.

'I Don't Want To See This House Go'

In Pierce County, problems from the heavy rains range from landslides to flooding over roads and water cutting off houses.

The Summit neighborhood south of Highway 512 is a classic example of what some parts of the county are facing. There's no creek, no river nearby to flood, but there's just so much water, the drainage ditches are full to overflowing.

And that's just the start of the problems in Pierce County.

"Imagine waking up to that at 4 o'clock in the morning," said Adam Werner, who awoke Tuesday morning to find South Prairie Creek suddenly filling his yard, even flowing underneath his Orting home.

The creek jumped its banks overnight, flooding fields, covering some roads, leaving animals and humans to find higher ground. "I was kind of amazed," says Werner, "time to get the vehicles out, we all raced out."

From one end of the county to another, wherever there's a low spot in the road, or a creek at flood stage, or a hillside saturated with just too much water to stay in place, the rain is doing its work.

A portion of the West Valley Highway just south of the King/Pierce County border was shut down for hours by a landslide. While the crew clears the road, a spotter watches, because another slide could happen at any time, almost anywhere.

"Everything's just saturated to a point where you can't tell what's going to happen," says County Road worker Brian Wade. They've been at it since 6 a.m. and the list of problems to head to next just keeps getting longer.

Back in the Summit neighborhood by Highway 512, folks have watched the ditches fill, with nowhere for the water to go, so they're parking on higher ground and hoping the rain stops soon.

"The last heavy rain was back in 1953," says longtime resident Vern Wheeler. "But this is getting almost as bad, maybe worse."

Adam Werner hopes not. His house is OK - for the moment. "I just hope it doesn't get too bad, I really hope it doesn't go over our house or lose this house because it's beautiful land - I don't want to see this house go."

Throughout Pierce County, road crews are working long hours, either clearing slides or keeping watch to make sure what drainage does exist doesn't get blocked up. But they expect another long day Wednesday, and for as long as the rain continues.

Lots Of Rain

In Seattle, a clogged drain was blamed for a mudslide that caused a retaining wall to bulge at a fraternity annex north of the university. City firefighters evacuated five residents and cut electricity to the building.

Marybeth Turner with the city of Seattle says they've also had reports of mudslides blocking the 9700 block of Rainier Ave. South as well as a few trees blocking the 300 block of Lake Washington Boulevard. She's advising residents to make sure your storm drains remain unclogged.

Tuesday was the 23rd consecutive day of measurable rain. The record, set in 1953, is 33 days. More than 10 inches have fallen since the back-to-back rainy days started Dec. 19.

Since the agency's "weather year" began October 1, Seattle has had just over 19 inches of rain, about 2½ inches above normal and well above the 11 inches in the city at this time last year.

With more rain in the forecast for the next several days, the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for a handful of Western Washington rivers. Most were expected to crest in the next day or two, with only minor flooding of low-lying areas.