Date: 2021-11-17 09:46:50
By Joe Sutton, Kelly McCleary and Steve Almasy, CNN
Three out of every four homes in the Washington town of Sumas have been damaged by floodwaters, officials said Tuesday.
Sumas Mayor Kyle Christensen said his 1,600 residents have been without power for more than 24 hours. City officials said later on Facebook workers were still trying to restore power to a few parts of the city and said crews were “having issues getting to the areas” that still need the power back on.
Christensen said he expected a majority of roads to be back open Tuesday night or Wednesday.
There have not been any reports of deaths or injuries, he said.
Monday’s rescue missions were largely undertaken by boats, Christensen said. But, with the waters receding Tuesday, the city has had to rely on large equipment like tractors to reach stranded people.
Stephanie Koehler told CNN affiliate KOMO a boat picked her up from her porch. She was taken to another boat, and then was taken in a tractor bucket to a bus.
“We were scared. I mean, it’s our first flood,” Koehler told KOMO. She planned to spend the night at a shelter with her 13-year-old daughter.
Koehler said she and others had put down sandbags, but they “were actually being pushed from people’s houses and down the river.”
Sumas is on the border with Canada, about 115 miles north of Seattle.
About 10 miles to the south, police in Everson were searching for a man who reportedly was swept away by floodwaters while calling his family for help.
Jose Garcia, 59, called his family early Monday morning and reported he was being swept into a field, according to a news release from Everson Police Chief Daniel MacPhee.
His son reported his father’s phone call to 911 after they were disconnected.
The man’s family reported he was driving to work and had gone through a road-closure barricade eastbound on East Main Street.
“From the son’s report, it appears that his vehicle was swept into (a) field that is north of East Main Street,” the release said. “He told his family he tried to get out of the vehicle and was swept away by the current north into the field.”
The release said the son told police that before they were disconnected, his father said he was “clinging to bushes or trees in the field.”
Emergency personnel were not able to send a rescue vehicle out at the time the call came due to fast-moving currents, according to the release. About two hours later they were able to send out a crew in a boat.
One resident called 911 and said he heard yelling in a field behind his home but he was unable to understand what the person was saying, according to the release.
Tuesday, Whatcom County said residents of Lummi Island should shelter in place and Lummi Peninsula residents should be prepared to evacuate. A road off the peninsula was likely to flood Tuesday, officials said.
The soggy conditions triggered mudslides in the region, prompting the closure in both directions of I-5 near Bellingham, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The highway is a major thoroughfare stretching along the West Coast from Mexico to Canada.
Tuesday night, the transportation department tweeted: “Crews continue working to clear debris NB I-5 at Nulle Rd. Today some of that work includes assessing the hillside and removing downed trees. This means we are one step closer to opening the highway. We don’t have an exact time, but things are looking better.”
In Skagit County, residents of Mount Vernon were advised Monday to evacuate ahead of flooding on the Skagit River, but a flash flood watch for an area of town was canceled Tuesday, according to a tweet released by Seattle’s National Weather Service office.
A bulge in a dike was evaluated by the Army Corps of Engineers, which determined the structure was not damaged.
“The Dike District reports that their remaining concern is for the damage to Riverbend Road, not the diking system,” the city said.
The Skagit River near Mount Vernon topped major flood stage (32 feet) Monday and was at 36.52 feet around noon Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Center. The river appears to have crested and could fall below minor flood stage by Wednesday afternoon.
Parts of the city, about 60 miles north of Seattle, are protected by levees and residents in those neighborhoods are advised to keep an eye on emergency notifications.
Mount Vernon is under a flood warning until late Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
“The area will dry out with the end of the rainfall for a few days,” the weather service said. “However, with so much water in the system, it will take some time to drain the floodwaters. In addition, the dams on the Skagit were able to absorb a significant part of the flood but with the reservoirs near maximum pool levels, that water must start being released.”‘
Fourteen counties are covered by the Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency proclamation: Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Mason, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom.
“This severe weather emergency order directs that the plans and procedures to the Washington State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan be implemented,” the release said.
In Clallam County, 10 people, including four children were rescued from their homes as flooding encroached on a residential area near Forks.
The evacuations were conducted with the assistance of Coast Guard helicopter crews, the agency said in a news release.
All residents of the area were accounted for, officials said.
The severe weather is also impacting power infrastructure, leaving more than 30,000 customers in the state without power as of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to PowerOutage.us.
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CNN’s Robert Shackelford and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.