Residents living in the Skokomish Valley area of Mason County are under evacuation orders due to rising water and “imminent flooding,” the county said in a news release.
The alert issued on Thursday asked people to “immediately evacuate the area or be prepared for shelter for at least 72 hours.”
More roads are expected to be closed on Friday, the release said.
Trooper Will Finn with the Washington State Patrol told CNN in a phone call that 20 miles of Interstate 5 was closed in both directions due to rising waters from the Chehalis River. The state transport department later announced that crews were working to reopen that section of the road as flood waters receded.
It is a primary Interstate from the south into Seattle.
Earlier, a video from CNN-affiliated KPTV showed a rescue boat coming to the aid of stranded people and standing on top of a vehicle on the side of the road.
A flood warning is in place for the Skokomish River in Potlach until Saturday evening.
Above 17.5 feet, flood effects for the region included “moderate flooding, with few residential areas, many roads, and deep and rapid floodwaters with much of the agricultural land in the Skokomish Valley.”
Too much snow and rain leading to potential avalanches and landslides
The West has seen hardly any break in the past several weeks after record-breaking rain and snow from Washington to California. The cumulative effect of all that rain and snow will increase the risk of flooding and avalanches in the river.
Rain and snow are helpful in easing drought conditions, but not when it is severe in a short period of time.
Over the past several weeks, heavy rains have saturated soil across much of western Washington. A total of 1 to 3 inches of rain is expected till Friday. Along with the snowfall for the last several days, this rain will further worsen the ongoing flood situation in the entire region. This will increase the risk of landslides below 3,000 feet on Friday.
“Some landslides have been reported over the past few days in western Washington and more landslides are likely,” the NWS said.
“Extreme weather has created conditions so dangerous it is too dangerous for our employees to live in mountainous areas,” the Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted. “Because of that, the Snoqualmie, Stevens, White and Blewett Passes will not reopen until at least Friday and possibly until Saturday. Additionally, SR 14 in the Columbia River Gorge and I-84 of Oregon are also closed to freight traffic, I-84 closed to all vehicles.
“That means cross-state travel is almost completely impossible.”
Rain and snow will remain in most of the Pacific Northwest through Saturday, before being discharged into the region on Sunday.