Its been a very busy week! Western Washington and Oregon have had the unfortunate luck to be on the receiving in of a big, three part storm.
Last Friday temperatures started dropping, Saturday it started snowing in earnest in many areas of Western Washington. By evening many urban neighborhoods in the Puget Sound area had several inches of snow. By Sunday morning the mountains had several feet of new snow. By Sunday late the wind started blowing. On the coast winds were clocked at 130mph, with many areas in the 80's. Several wind gauges actually blew away leaving officials to guess at windspeed. By Monday mornings commute the rain had been coming down for several hours.
In Seattle it was truly a moonsoon on the way into work --raining so hard that I couldn't see two blocks from the 7th floor of our office building. And it rained like that until after lunch, by the end 4 to 5" of rain fell over that 24hour period.
But it wasn't really the monsoon rain on Monday that did us in. Instead it was a little phenom we fondly call the "pineapple express" out here. Friday night it was 29 degrees. By Monday it was pushing 59 degrees and the snow level went from sea level well into the mountains. That sudden warming meant all that moisture fell as rain in the mountains, washing away 3-feet of snow in a few short hours. Avalanches closed two passes by Monday night. Urban flooding was widespread. By late in the day Monday all that water hit the rivers and came rushing downstream flooding whole communities and forcing the closure of the main west coast interstate. By early Tuesday morning, that interstate was under 10 feet of flood water and over 15 square miles in one valley alone was flooded. The picture above shows this area - hard to tell there is a major interstate highway out there.
The rain has stopped, the temperatures are dropping and the waters are falling. Many people, some rescued from their roofs yesterday as rivers dammed by huge debris flows jumped their banks and went in complete new directions, have not been able to get back to their houses to assess damage. Others have returned only to find their houses literally washed away. The human impact is only beginning to be shared.
Not too much we can do right now as citizens other than to support our neighbors and do what we can to help in the recovery. The public officials have actually been amazingly fast and proactive in their response to this crisis. I'll post more on that soon.