Raging water just about gone

Rivers: Flood threat declines as torrential rains dissipate

January 18, 2011 

The heavy rain and blustery winds of the weekend are over, and the next few days are forecast for more typical January weather: showers and temperatures from the mid- to high 30s at night and mid- to high 40s in the daytime.

The flood threat is receding, with minor flooding of the Chehalis River near Grand Mound forecast for today. The Chehalis was forecast to crest near 14.6 feet Monday afternoon; flood stage is 14 feet.

The National Weather Service said to expect flooding in Independence Valley, including James, Independence and Moon roads.

The weather was blamed for at least one death when a Washington State Department of Transportation worker was hit by a falling tree.

Billy Rhynalds, 66, a 12-year veteran of the department, was setting up safety cones to alert motorists to power lines knocked down on state Route 203 just south of Carnation when the tree fell on his truck and killed him Sunday night, according to WSDOT officials.

Heavy rains were causing problems along the Pacific Coast and the Cascade Mountains with flood warnings issued for several waterways, officials and forecasters said.

Minor flooding was reported along several rivers, including the Cedar, Cowlitz, Snohomish and Tolt.

“Flooding could wind down as early as Monday morning in some areas, but others may not see that until Tuesday,” since it takes time for water to flow through some of the bigger rivers, said Dennis D’Amico, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

A rockslide just north of Soap Lake struck some vehicles and injured two people, said Kyle Foreman, Grant County’s public information officer. The slide also forced the closure of state Route 17.

In Fall City, two people were rescued unharmed after they drove their car into a flooded road, The Seattle Times reported.

The rains in Oregon were pushing some rivers and streams over their banks at a time when many waterways were rising because of warming temperatures and melting snow.

“This was not one of the most significant floods that we’ve had, but slightly above what we’d classify as a nuisance flood,” Gordon McCraw, Tillamook County Emergency Management director, told The Associated Press.

Landslides also closed sections of three southwest Washington highways, including state Route 14 near Cape Horn, state Route 411 near Hazel Dell Road in Kelso and state Route 508 at Bear Canyon.

Meanwhile, fire crews in Randle went door to door warning residents to watch the rising Cowlitz River and be prepared to evacuate if necessary, Fire Chief Jeff Jaques said Sunday.

Logan Harris, a spokesman with King County Flood Warning Center, said the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers crested Sunday afternoon and were receding.

“It’s good news in that the rivers appear to have stabilized,” he said. “It doesn’t appear that the water levels will increase. There will still be some moderate flooding as the water works its way downstream.”

He predicted the crest would reach Carnation this morning and said residents should expect some moderate flooding and some closed roads.

Forecasters said drier and cooler weather should reach the region by Wednesday.

The Associated Press and staff writers contributed to this report.

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