Now comes the long, expensive cleanup

Now comes the long, expensive cleanup
As floodwaters receded across weather-weary Western Washington, thousands of homeowners and crews returned to survey damage and begin the cleanup of mud and debris left behind. A car with two bodies was found in a flooded ditch in Lewis County.

Many roads had reopened by Saturday evening, but scores of others remained closed by high water, sinkholes, washouts and slides. Officials said it could be weeks or months before some roads are reopened, and new slides were threatening to cut off some areas that have escaped the mayhem so far.

 Pavement is cracked and dislodged on the Woodinville-Duvall Road. (Photo courtesy of YouNews contributor timlaranch)
Two possibly flood-related deaths were reported Saturday, when the bodies of a man and woman were found inside a car that ran off a road and flipped into a water-filled ditch in Lewis County west of Centralia.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Craig Sahlinger said he believed the Firebird, probably speeding, ran off the road late Friday night or early Saturday.

The road was slickened with mud from flood water that covered it earlier in the week, and the ditch was filled with water.

Otherwise, no deaths or serious injuries directly related to the flooding had been reported and the rivers were going down Saturday, said Linda Crerar, a spokeswoman for the state Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray. Rescue operations had reached all but the most remote areas.

Flooding, mudslides and avalanches began closing highways and driving more than 30,000 people from their homes on Wednesday as a warm, wet "Pineapple Express" storm blew across the state, bringing a combination of heavy rain and rapidly melting snow in the Cascade and Olympic mountains.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who toured flooded areas Friday, gave what she called a very preliminary estimate of $125 million in damage to roads, buildings and other structures. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced $2 million in initial federal aid.

After her tour, the governor expanded the statewide emergency declaration she issued earlier to respond to damage from December's heavy snow.

"It is clear the flooding around the state requires additional effort by federal, state and local governments to address," Gregoire said. "This expansion will provide greater opportunity for local governments to apply for federal funding."

 A car and tons of dirt and wood debris are shown washed by recent flooding up against a home on U.S. Highway 12 east of Morton, Wash.
Flood warnings continued on five rivers as of Saturday noon - the Snohomish, the Snoqualmie, the Cedar, the Chehalis and the Yakima. All of those rivers are receding, and more rainfall Saturday night is not expected to renew flooding on any rivers, forecasters said.

A 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 at Chehalis, closed since Wednesday by high water, reopened at noon Friday to truck traffic. Crews also had Interstate 90 through Snoqualmie Pass open in both directions by noon.

U.S. 2 across Stevens Pass was opened Thursday. The other major route across the Cascades, U.S. 12 across White Pass, had reopened to local traffic only but a section was closed Friday for slide removal.

Freight train service returned to normal Friday on north-south tracks in Western Washington, said Gus Melonas, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, after crews removed mud and debris along the lines.

Limited Amtrak passenger train service both north and south of Seattle resumed Saturday afternoon.

Contaminated water also continued to affect some communities. Statewide, more than 8,000 people are affected by boil-water advisories and nearly 900 have no water service at all.

Here's a county-by-county look at the flooding's aftermath:


Rivers in east King County flooded several communities, forcing people into boats as streets in Snoqualmie, Duvall and other communities were submerged.

A chasm between 60 feet and 100 feet long had opened in a section of State Highway 202 east of Fall City on Friday.

Meanwhile, about 45 other road closures were still in effect across the county as of Friday night.

Bob Marcey watched with binoculars Friday as the water receded from his Carnation home. He and his family were evacuated by firefighters Wednesday.

"It felt like the world was coming to the end. But right now I have the biggest sigh of relief I've ever felt," he said. "The sun is breaking through. The water is receding very fast."

Record flooding was reported on the Snoqualmie River at Carnation, but the river was receding Friday, the weather service said.

Ray and Cathy Gallagher were cleaning up their flood-damaged home in Snoqualmie. Mud covered their downstairs. Water pooled in their garage.

"I thought it was supposed to be a one-in-a-lifetime flood," said Cathy Gallagher. Their house also flooded in 2006.

King County Executive Ron Sims spent most of Friday touring east King County flood damage. He also spoke with evacuees in Renton.


In Orting, 10 miles southeast of Tacoma, Mayor Cheryl Temple said many residents had returned to the town Friday. Residents of the town and the surrounding valley, home to about 26,000 people, were warned to evacuate Wednesday. Sandbags were placed around many downtown homes and businesses as the Puyallup River neared record levels.

"We're currently assessing damage," Temple said. "We're still concerned about the safety and stability of the levee. (But) by and large, we fared pretty darned well."


The National Weather Service reported major flooding on the Snohomish River at the town of Snohomish. The river was slowly receding, although the Weather Service expected it to stay above flood stage until Sunday.

The county Department of Emergency Management said about 40 roads in the county were flooded, including State Highway 9.

"Snohomish County has been hit hard by this week's floods, with rivers reaching 1990 levels," County Executive Aaron Reardan said.


A mudslide early Thursday damaged five houses along the Mount Baker Highway near Deming. Washington State Patrol Trooper Keith Leary said no one was injured, but two people were temporarily trapped in one of the houses by a downed power line.

The Nooksack River overtopped levees north of Bellingham, cresting Thursday night at 22.76 feet, 3.76 feet above flood stage, and was still at 20.09 feet Friday afternoon. Some residents in Ferndale decided to stay put despite 3 feet or more of water in their neighborhoods.

"I'm looking out the window right now and it looks like we're on a boat on a lake. We're kind of on the inside of the bathtub here," said McLean Johnson, home with his wife, who is six months pregnant, and 2-year-old son.

"The water is nasty," he told The Bellingham Herald. "There's an oil slick on top; there's chunks of debris and garbage in there."

Scores of roads throughout the county and in Bellingham were closed by high water.


Dozens of roads were closed and damaged by water throughout Skagit County, and many schools were closed because of the flooding. Although the Samish River has flooded at near-record levels, the county's major river, the Skagit, crested at 0.6 feet over flood stage near Mount Vernon late Thursday and only minor flooding was reported.

The state Department of Transportation reopened State Highway 20 between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete, but the road remained closed by slides east of Concrete.

Road crews Friday were clearing mud, rocks and trees that covered the highway east of Concrete. Officials said one lane of the highway would reopen to general traffic in two weeks.

A mudslide blocked State Route 530 between Rockport and Darrington, and officials expected it would be several days before one lane would reopen to local traffic only.


Many areas devastated by floods in December 2007 faced more high water just 13 months later. The Chehalis, Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers in the county all flooded, but water was receding Friday.

In Grays Harbor County, sheriff's deputies rescued several people from flooding homes. Officials issued a voluntary evacuation notice for people living near rivers, including the swollen Chehalis.


U.S. Highway 101 and some other roads were open again Friday after high water and landslides blocked almost every highway leading out of the county.


A landslide that washed out S.R. 503 just south of Cougar could be closed for weeks, according to the state DOT. Heavy rain and snowmelt saturated the ground, loosening soil and causing the southbound lane of the highway to break free and slide down a steep embankment. Officials recommend drivers use I-5 to SR 503 East from Woodland as an alternate route.