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After the storm: The cleanup continues

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Updated Sept. 10, 10 a.m.

NCW — Weather folks are calling  last Thursday’s storm an “extreme event,” and road crews around the region have no reason to doubt them.Mudslides closed several roads in North Central Washington, not just areas where the massive wildfires last summer and this summer left bare ground ripe for sliding.The North Cascades Highway and the Icicle Road outside of Leavenworth are still closed, but should reopen later this week. And six Chelan County roads are open to local traffic only, but are expected to reopen to all traffic by the middle of this week, said Public Works spokeswoman Lauren Loebsack. They include No. 1 Canyon Road and Agnew Road, Austin Avenue, Austin Court, Sabe Hills Drive and Kingsbury Road in the No. 1 Canyon area, along with Colockum Road and Tarpiscan Road.Thursday’s storm also resulted in one of the worst mudslides that Stehekin residents can remember,An estimated 15 to 20 cars and trucks at the Stehekin Landing parking lot were covered by rocks, mud and logs, and several others were partly covered, and damaged. Dozens of rental bikes were pushed toward the lake and covered by a slurry of mud and rocks. And the historic Imus Cabin was damaged.“It was a shocking experience to see all of our equipment covered with the flow of rock and mud,” Ron Scutt, a Stehekin teacher who owns Discovery Bikes, said in an email. He said the business has liability insurance, but nothing to cover “wayward mudslides.” Friends and neighbors helped dig out the bicycles, and fish floating helmets of the lake. He said he feels fortunate to have 30 bikes that still work, although many others were destroyed or will need repairs.Mike Barnhart, who has lived in the Stehekin area since the 1950s, said in an email that he’s never seen anything like this mudslide. “We’ve had smaller washouts, but nothing close to this,” he wrote. Scarred landscape from the burned areas probably contributed to the severity of the washout, Barnhart wrote, but added, “I think the rain patterns have changed. When those cells settle over a drainage they dump a lot more water than what the rest of the area gets. He said he suspects that Imus Creek got much more rain than the 1.3 inches of rain measured at the Stehekin airstrip. National Park Service ranger Meghan Barrier said Monday that the Stehekin Valley Road is now reopened with one-lane traffic. No estimate of damages or how much debris came down Imus Creek are yet available, she said.Barrier said it is “back to business as usual. It just looks a little different at the moment.” She said it will take some time to clear away all the mud and rocks, but the ferry and bus shuttle are both operating.Meanwhile, the Wenatchee River Ranger District expects to reopen the Icicle Road to one lane of traffic on Wednesday.And, state Department of Transportation crews hope to get the North Cascades Highway reopened by noon on Thursday. Wayne Rice, DOT maintenance supervisor in Okanogan, said the road is now open from the east to Rainy Pass. He said mudslides occurred in the same areas where mud and rocks dumped across the highway last month, closing the highway for a week.Highway 20 also had a washout four miles east of Tonasket, but crews worked on Friday night to get it passable over the weekend, and will continue work there this week, he said.The storm also delayed the Eastmont Extension paving project in Douglas County, where washouts will require workers to regrade and prepare the area for paving again, said Douglas County Commissioner Ken Stanton. But overall, Douglas County’s damages weren’t nearly as significant as Chelan County’s, he said. In and around Wenatchee, mud and rocks and logs across roads and into yards, garages and some homes.“It was definitely a very extreme event,” said Katherine Rowden, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane. “I am amazed and so glad that nobody’s been hurt in any of these.”Newly installed rain gauges in No. 1 Canyon show why.Rowden said one gauge measured 0.6 of an inch in 10 minutes, and another gathered 0.35 of an inch in 10 minutes, followed by another .25 of an inch in the next 10 minutes. “To get that amount of rain in that amount of time — it’s unusual,” she said.Also impressive is the total amount of rain that fell in some places. Stehekin got 1.53 inches on Thursday, and another 0.4 on Friday. That makes this September the 11th wettest for Stehekin in the last 107 years — and it’s not even half over yet.For Winthrop, the 1.68 inches of rain on Thursday and Friday puts it at the fifth wettest since 1906, and for Mazama, the 1.82 inches of rain makes this September the fourth wettest on record since 1948 — all in the first week of the month.As people continue to clean up after the storm, they can at least expect a week of nice weather to do it. The forecast for Wenatchee all week calls for clear, sunny weather with highs in the low 90s.

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