Beset by two straight days of heavy rain that caused flooding, landslides, culvert failures and washouts, and a potentially compromised sewage treatment plant, the Quinault Indian Nation on January 5 declared a state of emergency.
With major roads closed and all the tribe’s buildings and infrastructure being inspected for damage, Quinault President Fawn Sharp said the flooding was unprecedented.
“The Moclips Highway 109 Bridge near Quinault Village, a main access road to and from the Nation, has been washed out and closed,” she said in a statement. “That is a major problem for the Tribe. The Moclips River flooding is the worst I've seen it.”
She said that one major highway “could take days to repair” and that other road closures could affect commuters.
The “torrential storm” swept through parts of western Washington State Sunday and Monday, the Seattle Times reported, forcing evacuations in the city of Snoqualmie as well as along the coast. In all, a dozen rivers flooded in the region, with parts of the Cascades getting more than six inches of rain in the deluge, and up to 13 inches in parts of the southwest Olympic Mountains, the Seattle Times said.
Previous flooding threats have come from the rising sea at the Quinault's doorstep.
But on Monday the threats were coming from inland. The Moclips River was overflowing its banks a mile south of the Moclips High. The thoroughfare SR 109 in Moclips was closed after the river “claimed at least two vehicles,” Sharp said.
“One belonged to a Quinault elder and was left abandoned on the highway in the flood," Sharp said. "An unknown number of other tribal members who live adjacent to the River were evacuated at midnight last night and are now taking refuge at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Ocean Shores. This section of SR 109 is closed until further notice. SR 109 is very treacherous for motorists currently due to standing water and debris caused by the flooding.”
The sewage treatment plant may also have been damaged by flooding from the Queets River, the tribe said, and was being monitored. Beaches were declared off-limits as well, because surf was up and it was not safe to drive there, the Nation said.
“We are very happy and relieved to report that, to our knowledge, there has been no loss of life or injury caused by this heavy rain and flooding,” Sharp said.
A flood watch was also issued for the Chehalis River by the National Weather Service, the statement said, as warmer weather turned snow to rain in the mountains.
“The good news is that the rainfall is expected to diminish this evening and is not likely to return until Friday,” Sharp said on Monday January 5. “But it is important for people to remain alert for potential slides, lingering flood dangers and infrastructure damage. Please, start this new year off safely.”
Photo: Fawn Sharp
The washed-out Moclips Bridge on the Quinault Indian Reservation.