Weather

Pierce County has ‘seen the worst’ of recent rain storms

A motorist blasts through water over the roadway on Woodland Ave. E. in Puyallup on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, as wet weather continues to plague the region. The driver of the vehicle at left, who asked to remain anonymous, attempted to pass through, though better of it, and then got stuck in a ditch.
A motorist blasts through water over the roadway on Woodland Ave. E. in Puyallup on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, as wet weather continues to plague the region. The driver of the vehicle at left, who asked to remain anonymous, attempted to pass through, though better of it, and then got stuck in a ditch. dperine@thenewstribune.com

The recent deluge of rain continued to pose problems in Pierce County on Thursday with swollen rivers and flooded roads, but the steady stream of storms may be dying down.

Rain totals for the month at Sea-Tac Airport have already topped 6 inches, which is more than the normal 5.35 inches for all of December. That set a record for the fastest to reach 6 inches of rain in December, replacing the mark set in 1946 and tied in 2010 of 14 days.

National Weather Service forecasters called for more rain through at least Monday, though the amount is expected to decline.

“Ever since the Monday after Thanksgiving, the weather pattern has really cranked up,” said Andy Haner, a Weather Service meteorologist. “We’ll still get some rain here, but I would expect we’ve seen the worst at this point.”

Waters continued to recede on the Puyallup, Nisqually and Carbon rivers and in small streams and ponds. But officials said they didn’t yet have a clear idea of how much damage had been done.

Emergency repairs were starting on three levees, including one on the Carbon River near 177th Street East and one near Leach Road in the Calistoga area of Orting.

“Most systems were at or over designed capacity,” county operations manager Tony Fantello said. “There was a lot of localized flooding even in the urban area but our systems held together very well.”

On Thursday evening, Pierce County reported 12 roads remained closed and advised caution to drivers in nearly 100 locations, many where water was on the road.

Northbound Interstate 5 near Woodland was still shut down, but crews planned to open one lane by 6 p.m. U.S. 12 at White Pass remained closed in both directions after rain washed away a large portion of the eastbound lane.

A 15-mile stretch of U.S. 2 near Leavenworth reopened after closing Wednesday because of several landslides.

Strong winds kept blowing Thursday, though noticeably less than earlier in the week.

The highest gust in the state was recorded on Destruction Island at 62 miles per hour, followed by 58 mph at Enumclaw and Index. Sea-Tac Airport registered 38 mph wind and Elbe registered 43 mph.

Winds could gust up to 20 mph Friday, according to the Weather Service.

Power outages also continued a downward trend with Puget Sound Energy working to restore electricity to 21,480 households. In Pierce County, customers in Orting, Graham, Puyallup, Sumner and Buckley were most affected.

Another weather record set this week was the highest number of days in a year that received an inch or more of rain. In 2015, there have been 13 such days, including Monday and Tuesday.

The region usually has about five days a year with an inch or more of rain.

The 13 days this year totaled 17.75 inches of rain, which is 45 percent of the annual total of 39.58 inches, the Weather Service said.

And when it’s raining in the lowlands, that means snow in the mountains.

A winter weather advisory for the Cascades and Olympics was set to expire late Thursday.

Forecasters said 5 to 12 inches of snow was expected in the lower passes such as Stevens, Snoqualmie and White. Paradise and Mount Baker Ski Area were to set to get 10 to 17 inches of powder.

Eastbound Interstate 90 temporarily closed Thursday after several vehicles spun out on the icy roadways as snow continued falling.

Snow levels were at 3,500 feet Thursday and were expected to drop to 2,500 feet by late evening.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

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