Slide repairs speed up; rain ahead

Weather Service issues flood watch for much of Western Washington

lpemberton@theolympian.comMarch 6, 2014 

Cleanup and repairs from a mudslide on Prather Road south of Rochester will be fast-tracked, thanks to an emergency declaration approved this week by the Thurston County Commissioners.

“We want to get started as soon as possible on stabilizing the hillside,” Public Works director Donavan Willcutt said in a news release. “We’ve been tracking the debris and water movement in the slide area, and we’re seeing increased damage to the roadbed as the hillside continues to slide, so we need to get that squared away before we can begin the road repairs.”

Meantime, the National Weather Service issued a flood watch through late Thursday night for most of Western Washington, including Thurston, Lewis, Mason and Pierce counties.

According to Jay Neher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Seattle, the Olympia area can expect periods of rain through Thursday afternoon, with “a little bit of a break Friday and Saturday.”

One to three inches of rain have been forecast for the area, and that is usually enough to cause flooding on flood-prone rivers and small streams and creeks, according to the National Weather Service.

In addition, Thurston County emergency manager Kathy Estes said the county sent an automated phone call to folks along the upper Nisqually River in the Yelm area, saying they might see higher-than-usual water levels. The alert was generated by news that Tacoma Power was increasing its outflow Wednesday afternoon from the LaGrande Dam, she said.

“That’s going to show a little bit of rise on the Nisqually River,” Estes said.

Prather Road was closed after the Feb. 18 slide and is expected to remain closed from Lundeen Road Southwest to Michigan Hill Road until repairs are finished, according to county spokeswoman Linda Robson.

She said there’s no estimate on the timeline or cost of the cleanup and related repairs.

“They’re probably going to have to wait until the weather clears before they can do an assessment,” Robson added.

With the declaration, which was approved by the commissioners 2-0 on Tuesday, the county is now eligible for funds from the Rural Arterial Program to clean up the mudslide and make repairs to the roadway, nearby culvert and stream that were flooded with debris from the slide, according to a county news release.

It also means funding and contracts associated with the cleanup can get processed quicker than typical road projects, Robson said.

A gravel portion of Anderson Road Southwest north of U.S. Highway 12 also remains closed from the Feb. 18 storm. But it wasn’t part of the emergency declaration.

“I’ve been told the water has receded, but they found some damage to the road,” Robson said.

For more information on flooding, road closures and locations to pick up sandbags, go to co.thurston. wa.us/em/Flood/Floodinfo.htm.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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