Flooding in Washington state displaces hundreds and closes section of I-5

Emergency officials in Whatcom County, which sits along the Canadian border, were conducting search and rescue missions Monday night as more than 500 people were displaced from their homes due to flooding in the north and northeast areas of the county, a news release from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) said.

“WCSO’s rescue vehicle was able to reach many residents, and boats were used in places where the water was too deep. These efforts will continue throughout the night,” the release said. Hundreds of residents were moved to three “quickly established” shelters in the county, officials said.

The soggy conditions triggered mudslides in the region, prompting the closure of both directions of I-5 in Bellingham, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The highway is a major thoroughfare that stretches along the West Coast from Mexico to Canada.

In Skagit County, residents of Mount Vernon were advised Monday to evacuate ahead of an expected record flooding event on the Skagit River on Tuesday.

The river topped its major flood stage of 32 feet Monday, reaching 35.35 feet and is expected to top its record of 37.37 feet Tuesday, according to the National River Forecast Center. The record was set on November 25, 1990.

Parts of the city, about 60 miles north of Seattle, are protected by levees and residents in those neighborhoods are advised to keep an eye on emergency notifications.

“Evacuation is the best option for people to protect themselves in a severe flood event,” a news release from the city said.

Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau declared a state of emergency Monday, warning the city’s 35,000 residents to “take action over the next 24-48 hours to protect their homes, families, and property from floodwaters.”

Mount Vernon is under a flood warning until late Wednesday, CNN weather producer Robert Shackelford said. The area has received 2-4 inches of rain in the past 48 hours and could get another 4 inches over the next five days, Shackelford said.

Category 5 atmospheric river brings record-breaking river levels to the Pacific Northwest
“Forecast rain along with anticipated rain and snow at mountain elevations are expected to exacerbate flooding conditions,” the governor’s emergency proclamation said.

Fourteen counties are covered by the proclamation, including Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Mason, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom counties.

“This severe weather emergency order directs that the plans and procedures to the Washington State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan be implemented,” the release said.

The severe weather is also impacting power infrastructure, leaving more than 97,000 customers in the state in the dark as of early Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.

Officials in the city of Sumas said the flooding is slowing efforts to restore power.

“Due to the high water and many public safety concerns we will not be able to get power restored tonight. We are hoping that we will be to restore power sometime tomorrow if possible,” Sumas Mayor Kyle Christensen said in a Facebook post Monday night.

“We are so thankful for all of the dispatchers, first responders, city staff and volunteers that worked tirelessly to help our residents today … Tomorrow morning we will be continuing to try and gain access to our isolated citizens and offer help and support as we can,” the post said.

CNN’s Robert Shackelford and Jenn Selva contributed to this report.

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