Friday, December 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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One-two punch: Rush-hour downpour, then winds

Seattle Times staff reporters

More than an inch of rain pelted the Puget Sound region in one hour Thursday afternoon, submerging cars, causing landslides, shutting down roads and backing up highways at the start of the evening commute.

A Seattle woman died after she was trapped in her flooded basement.

With wind gusts up to 65 mph expected later in the night and into the early morning, utility crews and emergency workers expected a busy day today.

More than an inch of rain fell between 4 and 5 p.m., and by 7 p.m., the day's total rain had exceeded two inches — a record for Dec. 14 at the National Weather Service's North Seattle office, said meteorologist Dennis D'Amico. Though the deluge was severe, it was nowhere near the all-time daily Seattle record of 4.94 inches.

"It's just been a very active fall," D'Amico said. "This storm was more explosive than the others we've seen."

The rain and winds are expected to taper off today, with scattered showers and cooler temperatures through the weekend.

Madison Valley fatality

In Madison Valley, a Seattle woman died after she was trapped underwater for nearly eight minutes.

Firefighters pulled the woman from the windowless basement utility room of her home in the 500 block of 30th Avenue East after floodwaters blocked the only door out, fire-department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said. Shortly after 5:30 p.m., fire crews sliced a hole in the floor of the room above and pulled the woman free.

CPR failed to resuscitate the woman, whose identity wasn't released.

About 15 homes in Madison Valley were flooded Thursday near an overflowed detention pond, said Andy Ryan, spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities. Ryan wasn't sure whether the home of the woman who died had been flooded by the same pond.

In West Seattle, several blocks near Lincoln Park were closed after a 15-by-20-foot sinkhole developed between Southwest Thistle Avenue and Northrop Place Southwest, said Gregg Hirakawa, Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman.

On Capitol Hill, several blocks of Lakeview Boulevard East, near East Howe Street and Interstate 5, were closed because of a landslide, Hirakawa said. It was one of five landslides in Seattle. Crews won't be able to assess the damage until daylight.

Seattle Public Utilities received more than 400 phone calls reporting flooded streets and homes during rush hour, Ryan said. Aurora Avenue North and Mercer Street near Seattle Center were closed through much of the evening commute because of flooding.

On the Eastside, rain and winds toppled a tree into the second floor of a Finn Hill house in the 11720 block of 86th Avenue Northeast, said Mike Haschak, battalion chief for Kirkland Fire Department.

Kirkland firefighters rescued two young men from the roof of their car, Haschak said. The car stalled on the onramp to Interstate 405 at Northeast 124th Street, and the water had risen about halfway up the doors, Haschak said.

"All hell's breaking loose," he said.

In Snohomish County, about 30,000 homes and businesses were without power because of wind gusts and lightning strikes, Snohomish County PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.

Utility crews across the region were ramping up for a long night because of the windstorm that was coming in from the Pacific Coast.

By 8:30 p.m., Seattle Department of Transportation crews were responding to their first wind-related calls with reports of trees blocking the West Seattle Bridge at the Delridge Way Southwest onramp, and in North Seattle on the Northeast 45th Street viaduct above University Village, Hirakawa said.

Winds along the coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca were expected to be around 50 mph, with possible 90 mph gusts Thursday night and early this morning.

By 2:30 p.m., the Pacific Coast community of Long Beach had lost power amid heavy winds and rain.

Early Thursday evening, about 75 seniors gathered in the Peninsula Seniors' Activity Center just north of town for a pork-loin dinner in a room lit by oil lamps.

"We had rains here you wouldn't believe," said center president Doris King, 79.

The Long Beach Tavern was another gathering point. Hamburgers were being cooked by the light of lanterns, but without electricity to run the fans, the place filled with smoke.

Chains were required for vehicles crossing Snoqualmie Pass, but there weren't any major incidents Thursday evening, state Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Westbay said.

The DOT cautioned Seahawks fans returning home to parts of Yakima and Kittitas counties that they'd likely encounter black ice if they're traveling early today.

"We're really concerned about that. Black ice is a whole new ballgame," he said.

At Qwest Field, for the second time in two weeks, Seahawks fans faced the severe weather wearing heavy parkas. The rain hit so hard that water pooled on the field at the start of the 5 p.m. game.

Seattle Times staff reporters Danny O'Neil, Rachel Tuinstra and Ralph Thomas contributed to this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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