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November 19, 2012 at 12:34 PM

UPDATED: Record rain swamps Puget Sound area

Rain swamped roadways, triggered landslides and slowed commutes on Monday morning. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

UPDATED: 3 p.m. | Record rains caused havoc around Western Washington Monday morning, swamping roadways, triggering landslides and fouling commuters’ schedules – and more rain is expected through the week.

More landslides are possible through the day, as rains continued to hit saturated slopes.

Motorists should be prepared for “a gnarly commute” Monday afternoon, according to WSDOT.

Bart Treece, a WSDOT spokesman, said drivers are advised to start home as early as possible, and watch for standing water, which remains on some highways and local streets.

Updated tweets on highway problems will be posted on @wsdot_traffic.

It will be a snowy week in the Cascades, with some areas such as Mount Rainier possibly getting 100 inches of snow or more by the end of the week. An inch of rainfall can produce about 10 inches of accumulated snow.

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

“When we have super high tides and heavy rains, our drains just can’t handle it,” said Mayor Tim Matthes, who said the waters closed a section of Bay Street near City Hall. Some merchants stacked sandbags in front of their doors, and at least one reported getting water inside his business, Matthes said.

A state trooper in Pacific County had a narrow escape after he got out of his car at one of several mudslides in the area, and his patrol car was hit both by a falling tree and another vehicle on Highway 101.

Neither the trooper nor the other driver was hurt..

State transportation officials said the North Cascades Highway would close at 6 p.m. Monday, possibly for the season. A WSDOT spokesman said the agency would wait until after this week’s succession of storms to determine whether reopening the route is feasible.

Shortly before 1 p.m., it was snowing on Stevens Pass and traction tires were advised, due to compact snow and slush on the roadway. Snoqualmie Pass, which is about 1,000 feet lower, was bare and wet with some standing water in places.

By 11:30 a.m., Sea-Tac had 1.49 inches of rain since midnight. The previous record for November 19 was 1.23 inches, set in 1962.

Both passes are expected to get potentially heavy snow later this week.

In Seattle, the NOAA facility at Sand Point had 1.29 inches of rain by 10 a.m.

In Oregon, the storm killed a hunter from Seattle when a tree fell on his tent. The hunter has been identified as Nathan Christiansen, 52.

A “special weather statement” issued at 4 a.m. today said the lowland areas of Western Washington could see up to 2.5 inches of rain Monday, carrying the potential for mudslides. Mountain areas could get up to 5 inches of rain Monday.

Monday’s front is likely to bring the heaviest rainfall before Thanksgiving, especially in Southwestern Washington. The storm will also deliver a significant amount of snow to the mountains.

If the forecast holds and freezing levels remain low enough, Mount Baker Ski Area is aiming for a limited opening Wednesday. The outlook for the state’s other ski areas is iffier, said University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass.

“It’s very doubtful at Stevens,” Mass said Sunday. “At Crystal, there’s a chance.” Snoqualmie Pass, at an elevation of 3,022 feet, is likely to see more rain than snow.

Lowland temperatures over the next several days will range between the mid-40s at night to the mid-50s during the day.

A National Weather Service winter-storm warning for the Cascades estimates the possibility of 9 to 30 inches of snow above 4,500 feet. But the freezing level is expected to rise to 5,000 feet later on Monday.

“The mountains will keep getting pounded with snow at higher elevations and a mix of snow, rain and freezing rain at times in the main passes,” according to the weather service’s forecast discussion.

A brief respite from the rain is likely early on Tuesday before another system moves in, with rain continuing through Wednesday morning. Thanksgiving Day could bring another break, with showers instead of steady rain. By Thursday evening, the rain should be back, Mass said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Sandi Doughton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments | More in General news, Weather Beat | Topics: rain record, weather, Western Washington


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