‘In the thick of it’: Grays Harbor to get more rain, fog

Less than a week after record rainfall in Grays Harbor County that caused substantial flooding throughout the area, the county is under another flood watch.

The flood watch continues until 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 13, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.

Only about one-third of the way through January 2022, Grays Harbor has already beat its average precipitation through the month by almost 6 inches, according to Steve Reedy, meteorologist with NWS. The area has received 9.76 inches this month and usually it only receives 3.76 inches. The area received 8.24 inches in December 2021.

“We’ve had a heck of a winter so far,” Reedy said.

Rain through the rest of this week will add to that total.

“You guys do seem to be in the thick of it,” said Reedy. “Over the next few days you could run into the potential of an inch to 2 inches of rainfall.”

The rainfall is coming from a warm front coupled with an atmospheric river, which is a chain of moisture that extends over the Pacific Ocean, Reedy said.

“There’s a lot of moisture,” he said. “That’ll keep rain over the area through (Tuesday) into (Wednesday Jan. 12,) until the front moves north a little bit.”

Reedy said the break will be short lived, because a cold front will move through tomorrow night, which will bring additional rain.

“That kind of one-two punch will get rivers to react,” he said, referencing the Chehalis River and Hoquiam River.

Reedy said some rivers in the area may reach flood stage.

“Fortunately, it looks like most of the rainfall, because we just had a flood there, it looks like it should stay below flood stage,” he said. “But, we should see a rise in the river as the cold runs through tomorrow.”

The good news is the tides should be normal. Wednesday’s high tides for Aberdeen are predicted to be 9.8 feet and 7.3 feet. The high tides at Ocean Shores are predicted to be 9.7 feet and 7 feet.

“We should be for the most part right around where they should be,” Reedy said. “Not expecting anything like last week.”

Reedy said people should avoid areas where they see standing water.

“You don’t know how deep that may be,” he said. “When you see things like that we have a saying here at the NWS — ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown.’”

Then he referenced the saying “Still waters run deep,” to remind people to not try to drive through or wade through the water.

Reedy said drivers should stick to main roads if possible and to avoid any areas they know may be prone to flooding.

Reedy also spoke about soil erosion and how the saturated soils could cause landslides.

“That’s due to the very wet winter (we’ve had) so far,” he said. “We just had the snowmelt. Now, we’ve got the atmospheric river right now. There’s a lot of water in the soil right now.”

Reedy said people should keep their eyes peeled and look for anything that shouldn’t move.

“I know that sounds silly,” he said. “If you see a tree starting to lean, that might be your only indicator.”

Once the rain starts to clear Thursday night, fog will hit Grays Harbor through the weekend because of the abundance of low-level moisture the county has.

“Even if we’re expecting things to dry up out that way, particularly around Hoquiam, it is a little more prone to fog,” Reedy said. “I would lean towards the potential for dense fog.”

Reedy cautioned drivers to shy away from using their brights, to keep their headlights on low beams and to slow down.

“Allow yourself plenty of time,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to see far, so you won’t have time to react.”

Hoquiam Mayor Ben Winkelman signed an emergency order on Friday, Jan. 7, which declares an emergency because of the damage caused by the weather conditions — record rainfall, high winds and substantial snowmelt between Monday, Jan. 3, and Friday. The weather Grays Harbor County received caused power outages, severe flooding of streets and property, as well as damage to property, the declaration states.

The emergency declaration, which ends at midnight on Monday, Jan. 24, is available on the city of Hoquiam website.

The good news for the county is it should dry up soon.

“It does look like, especially in Grays Harbor County, we should finish the rest of the month with slightly lower precipitation,” Reedy said. “If not turn off the spigot, then at least lessen its intensity.”