Weather: Despite record-setting rain, most river levels OK

A jogger runs past a mudslide covering the southbound lane of Deschutes Parkway near Interpretive Park on Sunday as heavy rain continued to slam the South Sound.
A jogger runs past a mudslide covering the southbound lane of Deschutes Parkway near Interpretive Park on Sunday as heavy rain continued to slam the South Sound. The Olympian

The worst of a pounding storm that dropped record rainfall on the South Sound is moving on, but concerns remain about minor flooding and landslides in the saturated region.

A flood warning for the Chehalis River near Grand Mound will be in effect until early Tuesday. The river is expected to crest near 14.3 feet by 4 p.m. today.

Amtrak service is still suspended from Seattle to Portland, although officials expect the trains will be up and running by Tuesday morning.

Pierce County crews continue to monitor water levels in the Puyallup River near Orting, which was expected to crest late Sunday and return below flood stage overnight.

Today’s forecast continues to be wet and cool with friendlier rains predicted through the week.

“The rain will become showery and it will decrease in intensity,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg.

About three inches of rain fell in the lowlands of Western Washington from Saturday afternoon to Sunday.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport set a rainfall record for the date of 1.42 inches, breaking the old mark for Dec. 11 of 1.32 inches, set in 1955.

The heaviest rain Sunday bypassed the South Sound, which left meteorologists scrambling with new forecast models and lifted several local rivers off the flood warning list.

“It turned out most of our precipitation turned out in the north,” said Ted Buehner, warning-coordination meteorologist for the weather service.

Unrelenting downpours swelled rivers, forced road closures and made driving difficult.

The deluge caused flooding on 20 rivers statewide, four of which were major flooding.

The weather service warned of severe and possibly near-record flooding in rural areas on the North and South Forks of the Stillaguamish River northeast of Everett.

Parts of Washington’s Nooksack, Skykomish, Chehalis, Snohomish, Tolt and Snoqualmie rivers also were expected to reach flood stage.

Widespread flood threats prompted Pierce County and the state to open their emergency operations centers.

Gov. Chris Gregoire was being given periodic updates, a spokesperson said.

But as the threat of severe flooding diminished Sunday afternoon, Pierce County closed down its center at 3 p.m. An officer continued to monitor possible rises in local rivers.

A mudslide temporarily closed U.S. 2 near Skykomish on Sunday and blocked the railroad tracks across the Cascades from Everett to Wenatchee.

Burlington Northern Sante Fe crews were working to clear numerous other mud and rock slides throughout Western Washington, and Amtrak service was suspended in the region until Tuesday morning as a precaution, said spokesman Gus Melonas.

No trains have been hit by slides and freight trains continue to run, he said.

In Thurston County, an early-morning flow of debris on Sunday covered a section of southbound Deschutes Parkway Southwest near Interpretive Park, forcing another closure.

Farmlands and several roads in the Independence Valley, including James, Independence and Moon roads, were expected to flood late Sunday.

In Pierce County, 18 surface water management employees mobilized Sunday to monitor 92 miles of levee and more than 450 storm drainage ponds.

“The potential is still there up above Orting but it doesn’t appear to be as major as originally predicted,” said operations manager Tony Fantello. “But it ain’t over till it’s over.”

Staff writer Nate Hulings and The Associated Press contributed to this report.