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Wednesday, January 3, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Wet ground raises concerns about landslides

Seattle Times staff reporters

As yet another wet windstorm whipped through the region Tuesday, concern grew about landslides.

November's record rain was followed by a Dec. 14 storm that brought devastating wind and flooding and knocked out power to about 1 million people, some for up to a week. Now, though the obvious damage of that storm is gone, the cumulative effects linger.

The heavy rains have saturated the soil and weakened trees, making the ground more likely to give way. Seattle city officials say they are concerned about continuing damage from smaller storms — such as Tuesday's — that alone wouldn't have caused much worry.

"Right now we're particularly concerned about landslides, which was not such a concern on Dec. 14," said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

No landslides were reported in Seattle, but public-works crews in Tacoma spent several hours clearing slide debris from the 4700 block of Marine View Drive. A snow slide in Snohomish County, near Stevens Pass, shut down Highway 2 Tuesday morning.

Seattle Department of Transportation crews searched for slides Tuesday, but weren't gearing up for anything major, said spokesman Gregg Hirakawa. During the usual rainy and windy conditions this time of year, crews often look at sections of Queen Anne, Capitol Hill and West Seattle as places of regular slide danger.

"At this time of year it's always a concern for us. We have crews out at every shift monitoring steep slopes that normally slide," Hirakawa said. "If it looks like it's going to go, or it looks like it's out of the ordinary, they can call one of our geotechs."

In addition to monitoring landslides, work crews across the region closed down roads that were under severe standing water Tuesday. Flood warnings extended across much of the Puget Sound region.

In King County, emergency management officials were monitoring the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers for potential flooding.

In Snohomish County, residents living near the Skykomish, Snohomish and White Chuck rivers were asked to be on flood alert through this morning. The Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management is monitoring river levels.

The National Weather Service said winds died down around 4 p.m., and rain softened into scattered showers. Light winds and rain are in the forecast for the rest of the week.

"This is your usual winter storm. We get a lot of rain, some minor flooding and some winds with it," said Johnny Burg, a weather-service meteorologist. "Compared to the storms last year, this was pretty minor."

According to the weather service, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport received 1.77 inches of rain between midnight and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The highest wind gusts locally were reported in Everett at 46 mph. Winds during the Dec. 14 windstorm reached between 50 and 60 mph.

Sporadic power outages were also reported across the region.

About 15,000 Puget Sound Energy customers were affected in South and North King County, Kitsap and Skagit counties. Customers of Seattle City Light lost power in Shoreline and Delridge.

The Snohomish County PUD reported that nearly 6,500 customers were without electricity. The PUD also shut down power Tuesday night for several hours to about 14,000 customers in Stanwood and Camano Island to make repairs to lines damaged in the windstorm.

Most people had power restored by Tuesday night.

Times staff reporter Christopher Schwarzen contributed to this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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