Heavy rain sets off mudslides in fire-ravaged north Washington state

Blanket of gray smoke from wildfires near Twisp, Wash., on July 17, 2014; blazes burned away vegetation and left region ripe for mudslides and flash floods when rains hit AP

(SOURCE)  Thunderstorms dropped heavy rain on areas of north-central Washington hard-hit by wildfires this summer, triggering flash floods and mudslides Thursday night that damaged some homes, blocked portions of at least three highways and stranded some motorists, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said he’d heard that “a couple” of homes along State Highway 153 near Twisp had been damaged. Deputies were trying to reach the residences.

By late Thursday night, the rain was easing, the sheriff said.

Five to 12 vehicles were marooned on Highway 153 by mud and slides, Washington State Patrol Trooper Darren Wright said. Troopers and sheriff’s deputies worked late Thursday night to get the people out and leave the cars temporarily.

Mud and debris prompted the temporary closure of an eight-mile stretch of Highway 153 and a 25-mile section of State Highway 20, both in Okanogan County, the state Transportation Department said.

Wright said a small mudslide in nearby Douglas County blocked U.S. Highway 97 south of Chelan.

While the Carlton Complex wildfires that burned across more than 400 square miles are in mop-up stage, about 500 people are still assigned to fight them and nearby wildfires. Flash flooding and strong winds hit the Carlton fire camp and incident command post Thursday night, the National Park Service reported. All workers were accounted for and reportedly had dry places to sleep.

More than an inch of rain was reported in one hour near Twisp in an area burned by the Carlton Complex fires, National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Fugazzi said.

“In those burned-out areas, every time we get a heavy rain” the flash flood risk exists, Rogers said. With the vegetation burned off the ground, “there’s nothing to hold it, the water just sloughs off.”

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