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Roads Reopen, Flood Cleanup Underway In Western Washington

Fawn Sharp
Quinault Indian Nation
Flood waters undermined the Moclips Highway

Grays Harbor County commissioners approved an emergency declaration for their coastal county Tuesday in the wake of flooding and landslides.

Damage assessment and cleanup is underway in half a dozen river basins around Western Washington.

The disaster declaration in hard-hit Grays Harbor County gives officials greater flexibility to pay for response and recovery. They can move money around expeditiously and waive certain contracting and bidding requirements.

In Aberdeen and Hoquiam -- and beyond to Chehalis and Snoqualmie -- business owners and residents started the messy cleanup of flooded ground floors now that floodwaters have mostly receded. Highway crews reopened at least one lane of traffic on most of the major roads leading to and from the coast.

Meanwhile, Washington Department of Natural Resources geologist Dave Norman urged people living near steep slopes "to stay vigilant." A landslide risk lingers probably until the weekend given how saturated some soils are.

There are still no reports of serious injuries from the landslides or the localized flooding. The Washington State Patrol reported one driver suffered minor injuries when a car and two trucks hit boulders that fell onto Interstate 90 a few miles east of Snoqualmie Pass early Tuesday morning.

The westbound lanes of the freeway were closed for much of the day as WSDOT engineers assessed the hillside above the roadway. The agency then placed concrete jersey barriers along the right shoulder of the freeway to stop any more rocks from rolling into the traffic lanes.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.