BELLINGHAM, Washington (AP) – As many parts of western Washington began to dry up after a storm that dumped rain for days, water in some areas continued to rise, more people were called to evacuate, and crews worked to restore power and reopen roads.
Officials in the small town of Sumas, Washington, near the border with Canada, called the floods devastating, saying on Facebook on Tuesday that an estimated 75% of the homes there had water damage. Hundreds of people were evacuated
The soaking reminded people of the western Washington record, severe flooding in November 1990, when two people died and there were more than 2,000 evacuations, officials said.
“These families and businesses need our prayers and support as we begin the process of cleanup and reconstruction over the next few days,” the Facebook post reads.
Across the border, the body of a woman was found after a landslide near the small community of Lillooet, British Columbia, which was triggered by record-breaking rainfall. Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at least two other people were reported missing.
Rapidly rising water levels in the Sumas River in the state of Washington overwhelmed rescuers in Abbotsford, British Columbia, on Tuesday, as 1,100 homes were evacuated. These residents joined thousands of others in the province who were forced from their homes by floods or landslides from Sunday night.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said on Tuesday that impassable motorways wreaked havoc as authorities tried to get people to evacuation sites.
“It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in our city,” he said.
Southwest of Sumas, Washington, a 59-year-old Everson man identified by police as Jose Garcia disappeared after his truck was swept into a flooded field and he had clung to a tree.
Crews partially reopened the west coast’s main north-south highway, Interstate 5, near Bellingham, Washington, after its complete closure overnight due to mudslides. The northbound lanes remained blocked Tuesday night as crews continued to work.
In addition, six railroad cars that had been sitting on rails derailed at a BNSF railway station in Sumas during the flood on Tuesday, said Lena Kent, BNSF’s director general of public affairs. Trains at the site and others in western Washington will not run again until the water recedes and the tracks are inspected and repaired if necessary, she said.
Canada’s two largest railways expect that it will take several days to clear track disruptions in southern British Columbia that impede freight transport to the port of Vancouver.
In the northern Washington city of Ferndale, officials on Tuesday urged people in homes and businesses to evacuate in an area near the rising Nooksack River. Spectators near the city’s main street on Tuesday rescued a man who accidentally ran into floods. Dozens of people waded in the water up to their breasts, pushing the floating car to drier soil.
The rain was caused by an atmospheric river – a huge amount of water that stretches across the Pacific Ocean and into Washington and Oregon.
It was the second major flooding event in the northwestern state of Washington in less than two years, and climate change is fueling more powerful and frequent severe weather, Whatcom County officials said. Bellingham Herald.
About 5.57 inches (14.14 centimeters) of rain fell at Bellingham International Airport from Saturday to Monday, November 15th. The normal monthly rainfall in total is 5.2 inches (13.2 centimeters) for November, according to National Weather Service data.
On top of the storm, more than 158,000 electrical customers in western Washington had no power on Monday as wind speeds reached 60 mph (96 km / h), including a 58 mph (93 km / h) gust at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport .
Schools in and around the city of Bellingham were closed Tuesday for the second day in a row, and Governor Jay Inslee on Monday declared a state of emergency in severe weather in 14 counties.
More than 31,000 electricity customers in Washington state remained without power Tuesday.
The National Weather Service had issued flood warnings for several rivers around western Washington. South of Bellingham, the Skagit River at Mount Vernon crept at a level below the level of a flood wall built in 2016 to hold back rushing water, The Seattle Times reported.
Up the Skagit River from Mount Vernon in the town of Hamilton, the floods surrounding houses were slowly falling on Tuesday night, Q13-TV reported.
Dozens of people, including Bert Kerns, fled to higher ground at Hamilton First Baptist Church on Sunday. He was among those who had not yet been able to return to his house.
“Ru. A bit like a nightmare,” said Kerns, who has lived in Hamilton since 1980.