OK, that’s enough water; time for sun

Rain and snow have washed away fears of drought, and after minor flooding, spring weather is forecast

Staff writerMarch 11, 2014 

A cyclist with a hot coffee drink pedals Monday under the Meridian Avenue bridge over the Puyallup River. The river is running high due to rapid snow melt in the Cascades. It was measured at 4,508 cubic feet per second early Monday, 8 feet over flood stage.

PETER HALEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

After days of heavy rain and landslides galore, the weather will turn to sunny skies and springtime temperatures by midweek.

Forecasters said it will be mostly clear from Tuesday to Thursday with a chance of showers returning for the weekend. Temperatures will climb into the high 50s or even low 60s, the National Weather Service said Monday.

Even the mountains will see sunshine, though temperatures there will hover in the high 30s or low 40s.

Monday proved to be another soggy day in Western Washington with the Puyallup River near Orting and the Green River in Auburn experiencing minor flooding.

A section of the upper Puyallup River barely rose above flood stage Monday morning, registering 4,508 cubic feet per second just before 9 a.m. Flood flow on the river is 4,500 cfs. It crested about lunchtime. The Green River below the dam in Auburn pushed above flood level Monday morning, reaching 9,052 cfs about 7:45 a.m. The flood stage on the Green River is 9,000 cfs.

Waters spilled over Southeast Green Valley Road, and officials were keeping a close eye on the middle Green section and lower lying areas in Auburn.

No new landslides were reported Monday, but a section of West Valley Highway South near Pacific remained closed after recent mudslides. It’s closed about a quarter-mile south of Ellingson Road while King County engineers assess the next step. Marked detours are in place to guide drivers.

The deluge of rain and snow in recent weeks has lessened the chance of a possible statewide drought being declared this year, a concern sparked by a dry winter start.

“The worries are over for now,” said Dan Partridge, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology. “Right now, snowpack and stream-flow figures and all the indicators make it pretty certain that we won’t have to worry about any kind of statewide drought.”

Nevertheless, water supply experts are still watching dry pockets, including in Lincoln, Douglas and Okanogan counties, where low soil moisture levels could still present headaches for agriculture.

“We’re in good shape on the west side” of the state, state climatologist Nick Bond said, adding, “We’re still keeping an eye on the east side.”

The relatively dry start to the winter and lower-than-average snowpack had many worried about a drought. But a parade of storms in February deluged the state, especially west of the Cascade Mountains.

In one 10-day period, Stevens Pass received 10 feet of snow, according to the Weather Service. And one spot in the Lewis River Basin measured about 23 inches of rain last month, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“We should feel very fortunate that we’ve got rain at low elevation and snow at high elevation in the last month. That really has bailed us,” Bond said. “If that hadn’t happened, we’d be looking at the kind of (drought) problems that California has.”

On Feb. 1, the statewide average snowpack readings were at 55 percent of normal, though basins across the state varied. By March 1, the statewide average readings were about 89 percent of normal.

“That’s a pretty significant jump in snowpack,” said Larry Johnson, state conservation engineer with the conservation service.

The state last declared drought emergencies in 2005 and 2001.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653 stacia.glenn@ thenewstribune.com The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service