The South Sound should be done with tornados for the time being, but showers and thunderstorms aren’t expected to let up just yet in what has become the wettest September on record.
Meteorologists said Monday evening that 6.16 inches of rain fell at Sea-Tac Airport in September, breaking the record of 5.95 inches set for the month in 1978.
Showers and possible thunderstorms were predicted for Tuesday, but winds were expected to die down some by Wednesday with a hint of sun expected by Thursday.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning Monday for the Cascades, urging drivers to be prepared for wintry conditions. By Tuesday, 10 to 20 inches of snow could fall above 4,000 feet, with Stevens Pass seeing about 5 inches.
The heaviest snow was expected in the Mount Rainier and Mount Baker areas.
Crystal Mountain Resort was taking advantage of the snow by opening for skiing for three hours Tuesday morning.
“We’ve got snow piling up now and it would be a shame to let it go to waste,” said John Kircher, Crystal’s general manager.
The opening, the earliest in Crystal’s 51-year history, will be for one day only, resort spokeswoman Tiana Enger said.
One catch was only the first 51 skiers to buy the $15 tickets on line will get to ski. And only the gondola will be open. Skiers will have to either hike back up to the mountain for more runs or to ride the gondola back to the base area or hike off the mountain.
Resort officials said only advanced skiers should attempt to ski Tuesday.
There was snow on the ground Monday at the base area at the Summit at Snoqualmie but not enough for skiing Tuesday, spokesman Guy Lawrence said.
In the lowlands, the storms that brought the record-breaking rain and strong winds continued Monday.
A tornado damaged buildings and cars in Frederickson, Orting schools shut down because of power outages and the season’s first big snowstorm took shape in the mountains. Meteorologists said it’s unlikely the area will see another one anytime soon, given how rare they are in the region.
Winds hit about 38 miles per hour in Tacoma after overnight winds gusted as high as 47 mph at Alki Point.
The winds knocked down a transmission line in Pierce County about 4:30 a.m., cutting off power to about 7,500 customers, according to Puget Sound Energy. The Orting School District was among them.
Early in the morning, Orting school officials hoped that power would be restored and the district would operate on a two-hour delayed start. Power did come on at some schools, but not at Orting Middle School, location of the school district’s central kitchen, which prepares lunch for all district schools.
“The decision was to keep all schools closed for consistency and clarity for our families,” Superintendent Michelle Curry said on the district website. “In addition, even with power restored, it takes time to heat the buildings to make it comfortable for students and staff.”
Students were in school Monday at Ferrucci Junior High School in Puyallup, which was closed for three days earlier in September after a downpour caused flooding, district officials said.
In Frederickson, a storm cell moved through about 7:20 a.m., causing minor damage to a Boeing’s building and blowing out windows in two dozen cars in the plant’s parking lot, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said.
“Fortunately no one was injured by whatever passed through the area,” he said. “We’re leaving it to the weather experts to say just exactly what it was.”
Meteorologist Johnny Burg told The Associated Press that a team from the Weather Service office in Seattle went to the scene and certified it was a tornado, based on witness accounts.
Boeing employees were asked to “shelter in place” while maintenance crews checked for possible damage. The minor damage that occurred to one structure was repaired and production resumed at the site.
The plant produces wing spars and vertical and horizontal tails for Boeing commercial airplanes.
Central Pierce Fire crews evacuated a building at Northwest Door at 190th and Canyon Road before the winds ripped a swath several hundred feet wide off the roof, Assistant Chief Ed Hrivnak said. No injuries were reported, but work was halted.
The story also pushed around five empty rail cars awaiting loading with aluminum scrap from Boeing’s operation in Frederickson, Tacoma Rail Superintendent Dale King said. One box car was on its side, two were off the rails and leaning and two others were upright but off the tracks.
King said it’s not uncommon for empty box cars with their flat sides to be affected by strong winds.
Tacoma Rail, which serves Frederickson, dispatched a crane to lift the cars back onto the tracks.
The two cars that remained upright might not have suffered any damage, King said. The other three cars likely suffered some damage and will have to be repaired. The cars will be brought to Tacoma Rail’s Tideflats yard to await instructions from their owners about how to proceed.
Elsewhere on Tacoma Rail’s network, crews inspected the tracks for washouts and fallen trees, King said.
Sea-Tac Airport operated normally Monday with just the normal number of delayed departures and arrivals, spokesman Perry Cooper said. On Saturday, a clogged drain above Security Checkpoint Two caused a leak that shut down the checkpoint about two hours until maintenance crews could clear the drain.
At Mount Rainier National Park, snow temporarily shut the Sunrise area and flooding washed out some footlog bridges on trails.
“We ended up closing Sunrise Sunday because of snowfall,” Superintendent Randy King said Monday. “We’re trying to get trucks up there to get it plowed out.”
Plows also were working at Paradise to remove more than 9 inches of snow there.
A check of backcountry camping permits showed some people were hiking on the 93-mile Wonderland Trail, King said.
“We’ve lost some footlogs on the trail, so we may have to put some back in so those people can get out,” he said.
All the rain made for a busy weekend for those who mop up the mess.
Christine Wright, of Servpro of Tacoma – known for its work to remediate water and other damage – “got to the point where we have a waiting list.” Most of the calls were to residential addresses, she said, and most concerned roof damage and leaks.
“We had a ton of phone calls,” said Jake Swanson, production manager at Tacoma’s Guardian Roofing. “For a Saturday, we probably don’t get many phone calls. It was definitely more than usual.”
Most calls for help came from the Tacoma and Puyallup areas, Swanson said, and most concerned leaks.
“If there was a way for water to get in, water found a way,” he said. “If your roof was going to leak, it was going to leak this weekend.”
Staff writers Stacia Glenn, Alexis Krell, Kate McEntee. John Gillie, Jeffrey P. Mayor, Debbie Cafazzo and C.R. Roberts contributed to this report.