Rain after wildfires triggers mudslides in Washington state

Last Updated Aug 22, 2014 7:40 PM EDT

TWISP, Wash. - Rain in Washington state unleashed mudslides on land left bare by wildfires, washing down hillsides, damaging homes and closing highways as the threat of more storms loomed Friday.

There were no reports of injuries from Thursday night's mudslides, but specifics were hard to come by because some of the phone and radio towers that serve the remote north-central area of the state were knocked out in summer wildfires.

There were multiple slides overnight on two highways that marooned five to 12 vehicles, transportation and Washington State Patrol officials said. Troopers and sheriff's deputies worked late Thursday night to get the people out.

mudslide-2.jpg
In this photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation, crews work near a damaged road east of Twisp, Wash., Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
Washington State Dept. of Transportation/AP

North of the town of Carlton, mudslides knocked a house off its foundation, pushed an occupied vehicle into a creek, trapped a dozen vehicles between slides and left a mound of dirt and debris 5 feet thick and 145 feet wide blocking Highway 153, The Wenatchee World reported.

"It was freaky," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers told the newspaper. "There was so much water, it was amazing."

The Washington mudslides came as extreme weather plagued much of the country.

A band of thunderstorms 10 miles wide swamped the Chicago area. Rising water flooded Chicago's Eisenhower Freeway and neighborhoods around the city. Burbank, Illinois, had 5 inches of rain.

"We've been here for 25 years and this is the worst we've had," resident Dale Clark told CBS News.

The storms then moved to Indiana, where 10 inches of rain caused flash flooding.

Further east, a lightning strike injured six soldiers at Fort Drum in northern New York.

It felt like 107 degrees Friday in St. Louis, where a cooling bus had to be sent to help firefighters battling a fire at a concrete company, CBS News' Troy Roberts reported.

In Washington, there were at least two slides on Highway 20 in the 30-mile stretch east of Twisp to Okanogan, Transportation Department spokesman Jeff Adamson said. That stretch and an 8-mile section of Highway 153 near Twisp remained closed Friday morning.

Crews were out at daylight assessing the damage to the highways and starting work, but they were at risk of more mudslides, Adamson said.

mudslide-4.jpg
In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation, water pours over a damaged road east of Twisp, Wash., Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.
Washington State Dept. of Transportation/AP

Another round of thunderstorms was forecast with a flash flood watch through Friday evening, said meteorologist Steven Van Horn at the National Weather Service in Spokane.

The Wenatchee World reported that some people whose homes survived the largest wildfire in state history this summer had damage from the mudslides. The Carlton Complex of fires burned more than 400 square miles, and 500 firefighters were still mopping up.

"This flooding is in the areas that were burned," Adamson said. "It brings down rocks, mud and water."

More rain and mudslide threats will prolong the highway closures, he said.

"If you've got an unstable slope, you just have to pull the crew and wait until tomorrow," Adamson said.

About an inch of rain fell in an hour at about 7 p.m. Thursday around Twisp, Van Horn said, and the potential for similarly wet storms continued Friday.

Residents say they're feeling disheartened.

"It's like another nail in the coffin," Carlton General Store owner Jeff Lyman told the newspaper. "It's pretty bad down here right now."

Maggie Garrett, who lives on Benson Creek, described fences torn down and deep channels carved through driveways and backyards.

"It was literally like a river running through here," she said. "And now, everything's 6 inches under mud."

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.