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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

Release: December 6, 2007
John Clemens

Bob Kimbrough

River Flows Set New Records; Two Sites Still At Flood Stage

A "pineapple express" storm system that brought intense rainfall to western Washington on December 2 and 3, 2007, pushed river flows at about 10 sites to new all-time record high flows. As of 10:00 a.m. today, there are 2 river gaging stations reporting above flood stage set by the National Weather Service (NWS).

Flooding was minor in northwestern Washington (including the Skagit River), moderate in central western Washington (including Seattle-Tacoma, and the Snoqualmie, Snohomish and Puyallup Rivers), and major in the southwest part of the state, south of Olympia to the Columbia River. About 30 gages recorded peak flows ranking in the top five for their periods of record, and about 10 of those gages recorded new all-time high peaks. Flood stages were exceeded at 20 of 43 gages that have a NWS flood stage designation.

Most of the record peaks occurred in the southwest part of the state, with at least 5 new records occurring in the Chehalis Basin. The Chehalis Basin was one of the hardest hit areas as high water forced the closure of Interstate 5 between Seattle and Portland. Several hundred people were evacuated by helicopter from the basin, and several deaths were reported. One USGS gaging station in the Chehalis Basin was likely destroyed by the record high flows.

USGS crews have been out since Monday, working to keep gaging equipment continually operating, and to manually measure peak river flows under typically hazardous river conditions as trees and other large debris are flushed down the rivers.

USGS river gaging stations form the backbone of flood-warning systems in the state. Federal agencies such as the Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service, as well as state, county, and local emergency management agencies, use real-time streamflow data from USGS river gaging stations to monitor the rivers closely and to protect people and property.

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