Thousands of motorists were stranded Thursday when the parade of rainstorms caused a landslide that stopped all northbound traffic on Interstate 5 between Portland and Olympia.
“It was crazy and I was scared,” said Diane Smith of Lacey, who was stuck for three hours on I-5 near Woodland, and then drove a steep, winding mountain road to get around the slide.
Gov. Jay Inslee, who declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, toured the damage Thursday. The state Department of Transportation hoped to reopen the freeway by late Thursday.
The massive landslide blocked the lanes Wednesday after a hillside of rocks and dirt collapsed on the roadway following days of pounding rain.
The threat of landslides doesn’t end when the rain does.
Kirby Cook, National Weather Service science and operations officer in Seattle
The National Weather Service also was checking reports of a possible tornado touching down near Battle Ground in southwest Washington on Thursday. There were reports of damage to structures but no initial reports of injuries.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service say more landslides may be on the way, as rain-soaked hillsides are expected to remain wet through the weekend.
“The threat of landslides doesn’t end when the rain does,” said Kirby Cook, science and operations officer with the weather service office in Seattle.
Smith said her detour onto the Green Mountain Road above Woodland was an accident. After being stuck, she followed directions and got off the freeway. But when she got off I-5, it wasn’t clear which of three routes to take.
Smith, who was driving her 6-year-old grandson and his other grandmother back from Vancouver, probably made the wrong choice. Officials used social media to discourage drivers from taking the mountain road without guardrails, but Smith said she was driving, not checking her cellphone for updates.
“It was scary. I was like ‘Oh, my gosh',” she said, adding that she wasn’t sure if she was going the right way until she made it back to the freeway.
Her grandson declared the experience an adventure to remember.
Capitol Lake overflows its banks
Heavy rainfall, flooding on the Deschutes River and high tides in Puget Sound led to flooding around Capitol Lake early Thursday morning.
Jim Erskine, a spokesman for the state Department of Enterprise Services, said the flooding began at about 5 a.m. and affected an area from the walking bridge to Heritage Park and the Fifth Avenue dam spillway. A storm drain on Water Street near the Olympia Supply hardware store backed up, and the surrounding streets flooded as well.
City of Olympia crews responded and pumped water off the streets, Erskine said. The water had receded by early afternoon.
Erskine said Enterprise Services, which manages the lake, will continue to monitor water levels as storms continue. He said officials worried that more flooding could come with the next high tide, occuring at 4:08 p.m. Thursday, or over the next few days.
“It could get interesting,” Erskine said. “There’s more rain coming, and we’re going to have some really high tides.”
But while Capitol Lake looked fuller than normal during the afternoon high tide Thursday, there was no flooding — only large puddles and lines of debris from the earlier flood in Heritage Park.
Enterprise Services and City of Olympia crews were standing by in case of flooding.
Detention center evacuated
Heavy rain and a flooded parking lot at the Grays Harbor County Juvenile Detention Center in Junction City led to the building’s evacuation late Thursday morning, according The Daily World in Aberdeen.
The center’s staff and 17 child detainees were taken to the Grays Harbor County Jail in Montesano, said Sheriff Rick Scott. The staff cleared an entire floor at the jail to separate children from the adults.
Juvenile detention center staff will monitor the child detainees around the clock until flooding at the center recedes and the children can be returned, Scott said.
“That’s mother nature’s call,” he said by phone late Thursday morning. “Once the weather subsides and the tide goes out and the river recedes, then we'll have a much better idea when the kids can be moved back to the appropriate facility.”
A number of lowland roads were closed Thursday because of water over the roadway.
Tumwater Valley Drive was closed to all traffic, beginning just before the entrance to Tumwater Valley Golf Course. The road will reopen after flood waters from the Deschutes River recede.
State Route 6 was closed near Twin Oaks Road, west of Chehalis. State Route 507 near Bucoda in southern Thurston County was closed at milepost 7.
Also closed were: Sixth Avenue Southeast between Nisqually Park Drive and Riverside Drive; 110th Avenue Southwest between Littlerock and Delphi roads; Tilley Road Southwest at the 15000 block, where there are S curves.
To view a Thurston County Public Works map of current road restrictions and closures in Thurston County, go to www.co.thurston.wa.us/publicworks/2015/RoadStatusMap.aspx
More storms are coming through the weekend, but not as powerful as earlier this week. Forecasters say steady rain of the usual winter variety is expected over the next few days. The major storms have shifted south into California.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.