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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Record Rain Falls On Seattle, Brings Snow To Mountains

Woman with unbrella helps kids get on a bus
KUOW/Deborah Wang

Western Washington is bracing for more precipitation after record heavy rains snarled traffic and caused localized flooding on Monday.

According to the National Weather Service, 2.03 inches of rain fell at Sea-Tac Airport between midnight and 5:00 p.m. Monday. That breaks the previous record for the day of 1.23 inches set in 1962.

The National Weather Service says a second storm is expected to hit the region Tuesday, and an even stronger weather system will move in on Wednesday, bringing high winds to the coast.

Armed With Rakes

On Monday, utility crews in Seattle were focused on keeping the city’s 80,000 storm drains operational.

Localized street flooding can often be blamed on blocked storm drains.

“A lot of times it’s just the falling leaves and the accumulated dirt that is all around us, you don’t really see it until it accumulates in a particular spot,” said Eric Brihagen from the University of Washington’s Facilities Department.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Erik Brihagen from the UW's Facilities Department clears leaves from a campus storm drain. ", "fid": "974", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201211/Eric Brihagen_2.JPG", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Deborah Wang"}]]The UW is known for its collection of majestic old trees. Brihagen says UW crews started clearing the storm drains early, and even during the heaviest downpour, they were able to keep most of them clear.

“If a good wind comes along, it will blow a lot of leaves off again, so by morning we might be doing the same thing again,” Brihagen said.

Officials from Seattle’s Department of Public Utilities say they don't have enough workers to clear all the city's storm drains. They are urging residents to adopt a storm drain and keep it clear, especially during periods of heavy rain.

An Early Start To Ski Season

There is a bright side to all of this rain, however: snow in the mountains.

Stevens Pass announced it will open some of its ski lifts at noon on Tuesday, about 10 days ahead of its usual opening. It will be the first of the area’s ski resorts to begin operations this season.

Mount Baker plans a limited opening on Wednesday, as does Crystal Mountain.

Crystal has been blanketed with more than 40 inches of snow since Friday, but according to Marketing Director Tiana Enger, the resort can’t open yet because avalanche risk is extremely high.

“Forty inches of snow on top of dirt, that is a lot of weight on top of just bare ground,” said Enger. “That can certainly move.”

Enger says crews are on the mountain roping off dangerous spots, packing down trails, and using explosives to disperse loose snow.

The Summit Ski Resort at Snoqualmie Pass remains closed, and has not yet announced its opening date.

Year started with KUOW: 2005