Heavy NW rains bring flooding, evacuations, school closures

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Heavy rainfall in Washington caused flooding Monday that forced school closures and evacuation warnings and stranded people in their cars as storms with high winds pounded the Pacific Northwest.

The National Weather Service warned that winds nearing hurricane strength were possible in the region that has seen nearly ceaseless rain for about a week. A gust of 58 mph (93 kph) was reported Monday at Sea-Tac International Airport.

More than 77,0000 customers were without power in western Washington at one point Monday.

A state of emergency for the town of Hamilton was declared Sunday afternoon by the Skagit County Unified Command. People living in the Hamilton area, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of Seattle, were urged to evacuate as soon as possible, the Skagit Valley Herald reported.

As the water makes its way down the Skagit River, people were warned to expect flooding in Sedro-Woolley, Burlington and Mount Vernon.

The Red Cross began operating an evacuation shelter out of the Baptist Church in Hamilton at 5 p.m. Sunday. Blankets, cots, prepackaged meals and snacks were provided.

Just south of the Canadian border in Sumas, Washington, officials said city hall was flooded and saying the flooding event was looking like one a level not seen since 1990.

“At this point in time there is no reasonably safe way to drive to Bellingham without putting yourself or others at risk. Please do not drive through standing or rushing water,” the city’s police department said via Twitter.

All schools in the Bellingham, Washington, district were closed Monday because of dangerous travel conditions.

A mudslide briefly closed a portion of northbound Interstate 5 through Bellingham Monday morning. Floodwaters reached the doors of some vehicles in parts of the city.

On the Olympic Peninsula, the U.S. Coast Guard helped local authorities evacuate people west of Forks, Washington. The agency said on Twitter there were about 10 people in danger and that no injuries had been reported.

Emergency officials warned that people should expect to see water in low-lying roadways and should remember to turn around rather than drive through water on the road. That water can be moving swiftly and be deeper than it seems, posing serious risk to people in vehicles.

Forecasters say conditions should improve by Tuesday after parts of the region have seen more than 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain in the past several days.

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