News

Wild weather takes Central Kitsap for a ride

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

Kitsap County was hit with a one-two punch this week.

During the weekend, up to a foot of snow hit parts of Kitsap County, then rain pummeled the area early in the week.

The combination of melting snow and heavy rain caused severe flooding throughout the area Monday. The weather caused Gov. Christine Gregoire to issue a State of Emergency Monday morning. The Kitsap County Emergency Operations Center opened early Monday morning to respond to increasing rain and melting snow causing problems throughout the county. As of Monday afternoon, no injuries had been reported.

“We’ve got water over the roadways, flooding in some areas, landslides and now we’re starting to see sinkholes,” said Deputy Scott Wilson, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

The melting snow and torrential rains caused many roadways to flood including areas along the southbound lanes of State Route 3, Central Valley Road, Brownsville Highway and Anderson Hill Road. All roads from Central Kitsap to South Kitsap were closed Monday afternoon and the Kitsap Transit foot ferry between Bremerton and Annapolis was running on a regular basis. Although Kitsap County Public Works closed many roadways, Wilson said not everyone heeded the warnings and ventured onto the flooded roads.

“Public Works is putting up road closure signs to keep people from hurting themselves," Wilson said. “We don’t put them up willy nilly, they’re there for a reason.”

Kitsap County Department of Public Works Spokesman Doug Bear said at least 100 different roads were restricted or impassable by water conditions throughout the county. Some, like those around Gorst, were expected to become more accessible during low tide.

Bear, who has worked for the county for 20 years, said this week’s rain “is the worst that I have ever seen.”

Bear said there was nothing that people could do but attempt to stay safe as they weather the storm. He added that preparation for such a disaster was impossible.

“A rainfall like this, from 6 to 10 inches already, is of record proportions,” Bear said. “So no matter what you did ahead of time wouldn’t have made any difference.”

Because of the weather, the Central Kitsap School District closed all schools Monday and Tuesday and numerous businesses closed early to allow their employees to go home and stay indoors.

The Kitsap County Commissioners postponed their regular Monday meeting, during which the county budget was among the topics due for discussion. The meeting, with the same agenda, is now scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at the Kitsap County Administration Building in Port Orchard.

“Until this weather blows over, if at all possible stay home,” Wilson said.

With all the rainfall, landslides or mudslides have occurred throughout the county. Due to soil moving under asphalt, Wilson also said sinkholes opened up along roadways, causing major problems.

“It depends on what part of the county you go to, but it’s crazy out there,” Wilson said. “We have some people saying they’ve lived here all their lives and have never seen it this bad.”

Wilson said the state of emergency allows the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management to utilize the necessary services and tools to keep the citizens safe.

“The state of emergency allows our Department of Emergency Management to do a lot of different things,” Wilson said. “It opens up the checkbook.”

Wilson also said the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol had officers out in full force and were prepared to pull more men and women on duty if necessary.

“If we need more deputies to assist with true emergency calls what we can do is bring on some deputies to start their shifts early,” Wilson said.

Aside from dealing with flooded roadways, deputies also responded to power outages. Wilson said some residents were prepared for the possibility of power outages, while others were not.

“They run the whole gamut of people who are prepared to those that are in desperate need of services,” Wilson said.

The American Red Cross issued flood safety tips Monday. The following are helpful tips on how to stay safe and dry during a flood:

• Eighty percent of people who die as a result of flooding are in vehicles. If you come upon a barricade, turn around and go another way. If you come upon flood waters, do not drive through them.

• If you are advised to leave before flooding occurs, do so right away.

• If you have time, bring valuables and furniture to higher levels of your home, turn off the electrical power at the main source and secure the building.

For more safety tips and information, visit www.seattleredcross.org.

The National Weather Service predicts the rain will slowly subside throughout the week, but Wilson said people should continue to exercise caution and look out for one another.

“We’re all in this together, this is going to require neighbors helping neighbors and a lot of common sense in your daily activities,” Wilson said.

Because of the excessive flooding, the American Red Cross West Sound Service Center opened an emergency shelter at 6 p.m. Monday at the Silverdale United Methodist Church on Silverdale Way.

To access the most current road closure information, go to www.kitsapgov.com/pw/roadwork.htm.

— Kitsap County writer Charlie Bermant contributed to this report.

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