Sunday, July 5, 2020
July 5, 2020

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Grays River at risk as rain swells waterways


LONGVIEW — More heavy rain closed roads around Cowlitz County and Southwest Washington Monday, but the only river expected to hit flood stage this week is the frequently troublesome Grays River, according to the National Weather Service.

The Grays had already blown past its predicted crest of 13 feet and was still rising Monday afternoon. The crest was forecast to hit 15 feet, which is a foot short of what is considered “major flood stage,” by early Monday night. It should recede quickly and drop below flood stage by early Tuesday afternoon, according to the Weather Service.

Above 12 feet, drivers and residents should expect some flooding of roads along and near the Grays River, including roadway approaches to the Altoona Bridge and portions of Covered Bridge Road, Barr-Durrah Road, and Loop Road near Rosburg and state Highway 4, according to the Weather Service.

In Cowlitz County, the Public Works Department Monday afternoon had closed Westover Drive, Alpha Drive, Canal Road and Moore Road, Luebke, Germond, Bond, Cline, Cook Ferry and West Stock roads. Water also was reported over Lomor Drive, West Side Highway near Beebee Road and the 500-600 block of Ostrander Road.

These are typically the first roads in the area to close due to strong urban runoff, and there was a lot of it: About 1.8 inches of rain fell in Longview in the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Monday.

A flood warning for the Willapa Hills and Southwest Washington coast remained in effect until Tuesday morning.

Like the Grays, the Cowlitz River was rising faster Monday afternoon than river forecasters had projected earlier in the day. At Castle Rock, the Cowlitz had reached 39 feet — 9 feet below flood stage — by 5 p.m. Forecasters predicted then that it would crest at 41.3 feet Monday night and gradually recede the rest of the week. (Flood stage is when the river fills is natural channel and can start overflowing its banks, but still well below safe levee heights.)

At Kelso, the Cowlitz was forecast to crest just short of 20 feet at about midnight Monday. That’s about 18 inches below flood stage.

While more rain is expected through the week, as much as a half-inch was forecast for Tuesday in the Kelso-Longview area. But afterward the moisture will taper off. In addition, snow levels, now at about 4,000 feet, will gradually drop during the week and reach as low as 1,300 feet by Sunday. This means some of the precipitation will fall as snow in the mountains instead of immediately draining into rivers.