Flooding jeopardizes stretch of I-5, cutting off west side residents

CENTRALIA, Wash. – With routes closed through Washington’s mountain passes, and flooding closing 20 miles of I-5, area residents were essentially stuck on the west side of the state on Friday morning.

“The closure on I-5 this morning and afternoon was a substantial impact to travel around the state. We still have a lot of closures in place so it’s really important that folks consider if they really need to travel,” Tamara Greenwell with Washington State Department of Transportation said.

Greenwell, the WSDOT Southwest PIO said the water of nearby rivers rose much faster than expected.

Friday morning, WSDOT warned residents no alternate routes were available since I-5 and dozens of exits were flooded.

“We say if the roads not safe, we’re going to shut it down so if the road is shut down please respect those barriers and turn around and find another route,” she said.

Tweets sent out by Washington State Patrol Troopers showed extensive flooding throughout the Centralia / Chehalis region. The highways weren’t the only structures affected, homes were also surrounded by water.

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“It’s not just monitoring, we’ve got a lot of catch basins along the corridor so we’re constantly going through and clearing drains of debris to make sure our system can clear all of this water as quickly as possible,” Greenwell said.

Around 1 PM, I-5 was reopened to traffic, but some exits remain closed as of Friday evening.

“We’re keeping a crew staffed there to keep an eye on floodwaters because if they do increase again we’ll have to look at conditions again,” she said.

The Washington National Guard was dispatched to the area to fill and distribute sandbags to residents affected by the flooding.

Greenwell encourages anyone who had plans to travel this weekend, check conditions before hitting the roads and avoiding the passes.

“Winter weather can always vary and so it’s really important before you head out to track temperatures and travel conditions, we’ve got a great service that provides that with our traffic app,” she said.