YAKIMA, Wash. -- Nearly 18 inches of rain in 36 hours fell this week at Mount Rainier National Park, one of the crown jewels of the Pacific Northwest, and more rain and snow are forecast through the weekend.
The deluge on Monday and Tuesday swamped roads and bridges, cut power and sewer lines, and forced park officials to close the gates for the first time in 26 years. The basic cleanup will take weeks, and in some places, park officials say they won't know the extent of the damage until after the snow melts in the spring.
"Some places get that much rain in a year, and we had it in 36 hours," said Lee Taylor, park spokeswoman. "When we were finally able to get out and start assessing the damage, it was a very sobering day."
The Pineapple Express storm, named for its origin in warm Pacific waters, wreaked havoc across the region. It damaged hundreds of homes, washed out a major highway near Oregon's Mount Hood, closed part of the North Cascades Highway in Washington, and was blamed for at least three deaths in the two states.
Farther east, Montana's Glacier National Park received close to a foot of rain, causing widespread flooding and damaging the popular Going-to-the-Sun Road. The park's Flattop Mountain got 8 1/2 inches of rain on Tuesday alone, roughly tripling the previous record , Ranger Matt Graves said.
Most rivers were easing yesterday, and the National Weather Service said the precipitation forecast for the weekend wasn't expected to cause more flooding, in part because the mountains were expected to get mostly snow. Recovery and damage assessments, particularly in hard-hit parts of western Washington, probably will take weeks.
At Mount Rainier, the Nisqually River engulfed the main scenic highway through the park and left a quarter-mile gash in Nisqually Road. The river now flows where a campground once stood.
All the other roads in the park, already closed for the winter, had extensive damage. Search-andrescue teams were tracking down elk hunters between Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens who may be trapped by washed-out roads or mudslides.
The Nisqually River took out the main power line, cutting electricity for the western half of the park, as well as the main sewer line at Longmire, where a historic inn sits.
"An optimistic estimate for repairs is two weeks for some road access. Utility repair work could still take longer, which would mean there are still no services at Longmire," Taylor said. "We're hoping we can have normal operations for the Christmas holiday."
Christmas typically is a busy time at Mount Rainier, with rangers offering guided snowshoe walks, cross-country skiers hitting the trails, and sledders taking to the base of the mountain. Nisqually Road, now closed, is key to those activities, as well as to construction work on Paradise Inn, an aging lodge built in 1917.
Dave Uberuaga, park superintendent, flew over the area Thursday to assess the damage and was working to determine a cost estimate for repairs. Crews were working to fix the main road.
"Our focus is on the winter-access route, so we can get that open again," Taylor said. "But if we aren't able to do repair work now, then it will have to wait until the spring melt-out, and that could delay some of the spring openings here."