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Flooding in Washington state shuts down interstate, forces evacuations

Rain and snowmelt flooded rivers and creeks and caused major road closures in western Washington, officials say.

A man in Washington state was presumed dead Friday in flooding caused by heavy rains and snowmelt that closed an interstate and prompted evacuations, officials said.

The 72-year-old man went outside in Cosmopolis in western Washington on Friday morning to move his car to higher ground and did not return, the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office said. The vehicle is thought to have been swept away, the agency said.

Washington has seen heavy rain, with more than 6 inches in that area over the last 48 hours, the National Weather Service said.

Rising water from the Chehalis River closed a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 for hours in southwestern Washington on Friday, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Slides and flooding prompted the closure of other highways, including state routes 108, 109 and 507, according to the DOT.

Pictures from western Washington showed water had reached the roofs of vehicles with stranded commuters standing on top of them.

By Friday afternoon, conditions in the area were improving and the interstate had reopened because floodwaters “receded faster than expected," the department of transportation said.

Other parts of Washington state — including regions near Puget Sound — saw flooding Friday after heavy rain and snowmelt. Evacuations were in place in multiple counties, NBC affiliate KING in Seattle reported.

In a Seattle neighborhood, a house on a hillside slid off its foundation and firefighters rescued a man trapped in a basement, the Seattle Fire Department said. No one was injured but a dog died, it said.

At least seven rivers and creeks across western Washington were under flood warnings Friday afternoon, the station reported. 

Rain has soaked parts Washington this week. Hoquiam in southwestern Washington got more than 6 1/2 inches over the last 48 hours, and Seattle got around 2 1/2 inches, the National Weather Service said.

Snowmelt from the mountains exacerbated the amount of water in lowland areas and king tides also caused coastal flooding, Mary Butwin, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said.

The rain also caused flooding in Oregon. A section of Oregon Route 47 in the community of Mist collapsed, the state department of transportation said.

Flood advisories covered northern Oregon and the Washington state coasts Friday, according to the weather service.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday issued an emergency proclamation due to winter storms going back to Dec. 17, which have produced extensive rain and snow. The order allows for state resources and the use of the National Guard.

Mountain passes connecting the eastern and western parts of the state have been closed and likely won’t be open before Sunday, the state department of transportation said.

Washington State University, in Pullman on the eastern side of the state, canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday to give students a chance to get back to campus.

The heaviest rain in Washington state is over and many rivers, but not all, have crested and are receding, Butwin said. The Chehalis River is not expected to crest until Saturday, she said.

But there are still showers, and forecasters warned Friday that the amount of water in the soil means the risk of landslides will continue into Saturday.