Saturday’s downpours felled trees and flooded homes and businesses throughout Tacoma and Pierce County. The rain also set records across Western Washington, from Olympia north to Bellingham — and the rain’s not over yet.
In Tacoma, water surged over roads and through the city’s stormwater system. In some cases, the infrastructure was ill-equipped to handle the deluge. Between 10 and 12 feet of water flooded underneath the railroad bridge at Pacific Avenue and South Tacoma Way.
One quick but heavy rainstorm inundated more than 60 units in a mini storage business on Puyallup Avenue. The damage there could be the most costly of all during Saturday’s storm, said Mike Slevin, head of Tacoma’s environmental services department. Slevin called the rainstorm a “100-year intensity storm.”
More than one-half inch of rain fell in less than 30 minutes just after noon Saturday, Slevin said. The water quickly overwhelmed city’s stormwater system, which drains under the railroad trestle north of East 25th Street.
From there, it flooded straight into the basement of The Storage Box. Co-owner Donna Sorensen said that in her and her husband’s 20 years of owning the business, it’s never been flooded.
“There was a torrent of water coming out of that hillside,” she said, pointing south.
Manager Catherine Davis said she noticed the heavy rain, then she glanced at the store’s security camera and noticed water creeping across the floor. By the time she arrived in the basement, the water was a few inches deep; 20 minutes later it was near the ceiling.
Ron Simchen of Tacoma had eight storage units full of his belongings in the basement. He said he stored antiques, a large collection of books, Disney memorabilia and “a little bit of everything.”
“Just making an inventory of everything I lost is going to be a pain,” Simchen said.
RECORDS SWEPT AWAY
The rain broke records all across the region, said Gary Schneider, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. A weather spotter near downtown Tacoma reported 1.75 inches of rain through 6 p.m.
Olympia had recorded 2.8 inches of rain through 6 p.m., a record for the month of September.
Fire crews reported trees or water blocking roads, but there were no serious injuries in the area as of Saturday night.
Slevin said Tacoma’s environmental services crews responded to 76 calls of flooding through 5:40 p.m., which he called a “substantial” volume. The crews are working around the clock to respond to flooding complaints and remove debris in preparation for a storm expected Sunday.
Tacoma Public Utilities reported on its Twitter feed that power was out to about 8,000 customers in its service area, which includes Tacoma and towns throughout Pierce County. By Saturday evening, the utility reported that power had been restored to most areas.
Weather could start out breezy on Sunday. By the afternoon, the wind should increase to 30 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
PLAYING IN THE RAIN
While the storm wreaked havoc across the area, not everyone jeered its arrival.
When the skies opened up over Western Washington on Saturday morning, members of the Fircrest Net Rippers soccer team couldn’t have been happier.
“This is a memory. People can’t replace this,” said Coach Brent Tornquist as his soaking wet Net Rippers gleefully took on the Gig Harbor Spartans in a game as much like water polo as soccer. “We will never forget this.”
After the game, the Net Rippers posed for pictures at the south end of the Fircrest Park playfield, standing in a puddle so deep it reached some of the smaller players’ thighs.
Brodie Smith, who scored four goals, flopped down in the water and happily did a catfish crawl, grinning all the way.
“This is a chance to play in the mud and be OK,” said Brodie’s dad, Daryn Smith, clutching an umbrella in the deluge. “These kids will be talking about this for years.”
Across the South Sound, as back-to-back storms dropped record amounts of rainfall, flooding streets, popping manhole covers and slowing traffic to a crawl, many people went on about their business as usual, making the best of a wet thing.
In Point Defiance Park, Chris Hale managed to get his grill going and barbecued salmon while the rain pounded the roof of the picnic shelter.
“The weather doesn’t matter,” said Lorraine Walden, picnicking at the park with her family.
“All that matters is that the family’s together,” she said. “We’re campers anyway, so this is nothing.”