Washington wildfire burn scars turn into mudslides
the associated press | August 23,2014
This video image shows a home in north central Washington after rains created mudslides on Friday. The land, which was left bare by wildfires, washed down hillsides, damaged homes and closed highways.
TWISP, Wash. — Rain in Washington state unleashed mudslides on land left bare by wildfires, washing down hillsides, damaging homes and closing highways as the threat of more storms loomed Friday.
There were no reports of injuries from Thursday night’s mudslides, but specifics were hard to come by because some of the phone and radio towers that serve the remote north-central area of the state were knocked out in summer wildfires.
There were multiple slides overnight on two highways that marooned five to 12 vehicles, transportation and Washington State Patrol officials said. Troopers and sheriff’s deputies worked late Thursday night to get the people out.
North of the town of Carlton, mudslides knocked a house off its foundation, pushed an occupied vehicle into a creek, trapped a dozen vehicles between slides and left a mound of dirt and debris 5 feet thick and 145 feet wide blocking Highway 153, The Wenatchee World reported (http://tinyurl.com/p8dgnps ).
“It was freaky,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told the newspaper. “There was so much water, it was amazing.”
There are at least two slides on Highway 20 in the 30-mile stretch east of Twisp to Okanogan, Transportation Department spokesman Jeff Adamson said. That stretch and an 8-mile section of Highway 153 near Twisp remained closed Friday morning.
Crews were out at daylight assessing the damage to the highways and starting work, but they were at risk of more mudslides, Adamson said.
Another round of thunderstorms was forecast with a flash flood watch through Friday evening, said meteorologist Steven Van Horn at the National Weather Service in Spokane.
The Wenatchee World reported that some people whose homes survived the largest wildfire in state history this summer had damage from the mudslides. The Carlton Complex of fires burned more than 400 square miles, and 500 firefighters were still mopping up.
“This flooding is in the areas that were burned,” Adamson said. “It brings down rocks, mud and water.”
More rain and mudslide threats will prolong the highway closures, he said.
“If you’ve got an unstable slope, you just have to pull the crew and wait until tomorrow,” Adamson said.
About an inch of rain fell in an hour at about 7 p.m. Thursday around Twisp, Van Horn said, and the potential for similarly wet storms continued Friday.
Residents say they’re feeling disheartened.
“It’s like another nail in the coffin,” Carlton General Store owner Jeff Lyman told the newspaper. “It’s pretty bad down here right now.”
Maggie Garrett, who lives on Benson Creek, described fences torn down and deep channels carved through driveways and backyards.
“It was literally like a river running through here,” she said. “And now, everything’s 6 inches under mud.”