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Updated Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 12:46 AM

Record rainfall in season's first big storm

By Lynn Thompson
Seattle Times staff reporter

The season's first severe storm Monday flooded roads and highways, triggered mudslides and killed a Seattle hunter when a tree fell on his tent in heavy winds near the Oregon coast.

The storm dumped record rain, and more is forecast through Thanksgiving, though no other day this week is expected to bring as much rain as Monday brought, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Burke.

Heavy snowfall in the Cascade mountain passes is forecast for later in the week, just in time for holiday travel and Friday's Apple Cup in Pullman.

Weather-service meteorologist Ted Buehner said he had one "screaming message" for those traveling across mountain passes for Thanksgiving:

"Be prepared for hazardous winter weather — and that includes coming back," Buehner said.

He said driving with traction tires is a must.

"No bald tires — it drives the State Patrol nuts!" Buehner said.

By 9 a.m., Monday, the rainfall at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where Seattle's official weather statistics are gathered, had already broken the previous record for the date, Burke said. By 10 p.m., 2.13 inches had fallen for the day. The earlier record for Nov. 19, set in 1962, was 1.23 inches.

In Seattle proper, almost 2 inches fell between 6 a.m. and noon in the Crown Hill neighborhood.

Other areas of Western Washington were deluged. More than 7 inches fell over a two-day period in Potlatch, Mason County, more than 6 inches in Bremerton and nearly 4 inches in Olympia, meteorologist Jay Neher said.

The National Weather Service issued a major flood warning for the Skokomish River in Mason County. Many other rivers in Western Washington were on flood alert.

Some of the worst storm damage Monday was on the Washington and Oregon coasts, where heavy winds coupled with the rain were blamed for the death of a Seattle man.

Nathan Christensen, a 52-year-old elk hunter, was killed instantly when a tree crashed onto his tent near Nehalem, Ore., said Chief Perry Sherbaugh of Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue.

Two hunters in an adjacent camp heard the tree snap and saw it lying across the tent. They cut it away in an attempt to rescue the man, but he was dead when they reached him.

Wind gusts of 114 mph were recorded at Naselle Ridge in Pacific County at 10 a.m. Monday, with gusts approached 100 mph on the Oregon coast.

On the Columbia River at Astoria, high winds tipped over a semitruck crossing the Highway 101 bridge and prevented crews from removing it for several hours.

At least 10 mudslides closed the railroad line between Everett and Seattle. BNSF Railways spokesman Gus Melonas said there wouldn't be any passenger service for 48 hours, a federal requirement when there is a slide across the tracks.

The storm brought good news for skiers. Mount Rainier could get 50 to 100 inches of snow or more by the end of the week, according to Burke, the weather-service meteorologist. The storm dumped 24 inches within 24 hours, he said.

Stevens Pass Resort planned to open Tuesday. Mount Baker and Crystal Mountain ski areas plan to open Wednesday, and Mission Ridge opens Friday.

The Washington State Department of Transportation closed the North Cascades Highway at noon Monday because of heavy snow and avalanche danger.

The department said there were three slides and more than 4 inches of snow within 90 minutes.

The closure is temporary, the department said, but Highway 20 over the North Cascades typically closes for the winter this time of year.

In Port Orchard, about five blocks of downtown streets were closed under about a foot of water Monday morning because of a combination of rain and high tide.

"When we have super-high tides and heavy rains, our drains just can't handle it," said Mayor Tim Matthes.

King County wastewater utility crews responded to a brief sewage overflow Monday afternoon in Seattle's Meadowbrook Park, a site of recurrent flooding.

To protect public health, King County will monitor water quality in the pond and work with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to post areas of the park as closed.

SPU had extra crews out Monday dealing with flooded intersections, raging creeks and overwhelmed storm drains.

SPU meteorologist James Rufo-Hill said most of the city got a record rainfall in a short period of time.

He described the 2 inches that fell between 6 a.m. and noon on Crown Hill as "an extraordinary rain event."

In the Pinehurst neighborhood of Northeast Seattle, Becky Peterson came home at noon to find about 18 inches of water in her basement. A tributary of Thorton Creek runs next to her house, but she said the creek bed is typically dry.

"I've never seen it like a lake before. It's never been this bad," she said.

SPU drainage crews were at the site all afternoon trying to clear a blocked culvert. They probed for debris in 4 feet of water and ran a jet hose from a big vacuum truck, but couldn't find the obstruction.

"It could just be completely overloaded," said Erik Sears, a truck driver for the utility.

At the SPU Operations Response Center, operators answered calls from the public and dispatched crews across the city. By the end of the day, the utility had responded to 362 calls, including almost 200 for standing water and another 71 for flooding.

Sarah Miller, director of drainage and wastewater operations, put the heavy rainfall into perspective.

"It's November in Seattle. This is the biggest storm so far this year, but we'll probably have three or four more."

Seattle Times reporters Jack Broom and Alexa Vaughn and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.

4-day forecast

Tuesday

Afternoon rain

High: 51. Low: 44.

Wednesday

Rain at times, breezy

High: 48. Low: 42.

Thursday

Chance of rain

High: 50. Low: 45.

Friday

Rain

High: 51. Low: 44.

Cascade snow levels

If you're driving over the mountain passes, here are some daytime snow-level forecasts:

Tuesday: 4,500 feet

Wednesday: 3,000 feet

Thursday: 4,500 feet

Friday: 6,000 feet

Saturday: 4,000 feet

Sunday: 2,500 feet

Source: National Weather Service

Whom to call

Power

Seattle City Light: Outage hotline: 206-684-7400; System Status map:seattle.gov/light/sysstat

Puget Sound Energy: To report an outage: 888-225-5773

Snohomish County Public Utilities District: To report an outage or other electrical problem: 425-783-1001

Conditions on mountain passes

Washington State Department of Transportation: wsdot.com/traffic/passes, or call 511 for traffic updates.

Flood information

King County: seati.ms/URUkIb

Snohomish County: seati.ms/UQbRef


KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Heavy rains left standing water Monday north of Husky Stadium, slowing traffic in the area of Montlake Boulevard and 25th Avenue Northeast. Expect more rain this week, forecasters say, but sun breaks are a possibility Thursday.








ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Becky Peterson, a Northgate resident, checks on her basement. While she's lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, she said this was the first time she'd seen flooding in the branch of Thornton Creek that runs beside her house on Northeast 117th Street.




COLIN DILTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Kevin Jordan, right, with contracting service JHB, helps install sandbags to protect businesses near the Edmonds ferry dock. More than a foot of water covered Dayton Street.




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