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Originally published Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 9:49 PM

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Flooding, more mild than feared, still causes trouble

Rivers overflowed, roads were closed and at least one man was rescued as heavy rains hit Northwestern Washington. Now cold weather might bring snow to Seattle by week's end, officials say.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Heavy rain and low snow levels caused rivers to overflow across Northwestern Washington on Wednesday, closing roads, triggering mudslides and requiring the rescue of at least one man.

And in Snohomish County, a mudslide helped a Lake Stevens-area house that had been teetering on the edge of the Pilchuck River to finally fall in.

Flooding was expected to ease by early Thursday morning as more dry and frigid conditions settled in — cold weather that might even bring snow to Seattle by week's end, officials cautioned.

"The new flood threat is done," Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Wednesday night. "We're now dealing with whatever water has fallen."

That water, which amounted to 3-9 inches in King and Snohomish counties and the central Cascade Mountains on Tuesday and Wednesday, caused minor to moderate flooding on the Tolt and Green rivers in King County, the Snoqualmie, Snohomish, Skykomish and Pilchuck rivers in Snohomish County and the Puyallup River in Pierce County.

The high water, which had been expected, was more mild than initially feared, officials said.

"Historically, they won't stand out in any way, shape or form," said Doug Williams, a spokesman for the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

Still, the water levels caused trouble for scores of residents.

Officials closed some half a dozen roads in Snohomish County because of standing water, said Christopher Schwarzen, a spokesman for the county executive's office. Several roads were closed in King County as well.

Stevens Pass was closed until about 4 p.m. because of avalanche concerns.

And a man camping near the Snoqualmie River woke up Wednesday to find his tent surrounded by water, prompting a rescue, officials said.

Mudslides were also a concern.

One such slide halted railway service between Seattle and Everett early Wednesday morning, BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said. An excavator clearing the slide was hit by a second slide a few hours later, at 5:30 a.m., Melonas said.

The slides were quickly cleared, but Amtrak and Sound Transit trains won't be able to use the tracks until Friday morning because of a 48-hour post-slide moratorium for passenger trains.

In Lake Stevens, when Clayton and Catherine Bess' house finally fell into the Pilchuck River, the couple, paradoxically, felt some relief.

They had been ordered to move out of the house last April because the home was in danger of succumbing to the river. Now that it has actually slipped into the swollen river, the Bess family says, the couple finally can collect flood-insurance money.

"It's sad and pathetic, but if you can't live in it, what can you do?" said the couple's daughter, Barbara Bess.

Officials warned that mudslides could continue for the next few days.

Seattle Times staff reporter Lark Turner contributed to this report.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.

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