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Gov. Inslee, Skykomish mayor defend response to US 2 snowstorm closure

Hundreds of people were cut off from access to food, water and fuel when US 2 shut down. Residents say the government didn't help those impacted fast enough.

SKYKOMISH, Wash. — Hundreds of people living in the mountain towns between Gold Bar and Skykomish were left stranded in their homes when the pass closed on Sunday night as heavy snow brought down dozens of trees and power lines.

Residents impacted by the closure of US Highway 2 near Skykomish saw a bit of relief on Wednesday when a volunteer convoy delivered food, water, and fuel to those stranded. 

The State Emergency Management Division also brought in supplies. 

However, those who have been without electricity since Friday say their local and state governments didn’t do enough to aid them. 

"We don't have news, we don't have phones, we don't have internet. We're totally isolated," said Baring resident Charlie Preston on Tuesday. "I don't know if the governor has called this an emergency. If he hasn't, he needs to. We need all the help we can get."

Gov. Jay Inslee said his office has been in contact with the mayors of Gold Bar and Skykomish, who did not immediately request help from the state. 

Inslee defended the state's response in an exclusive interview with KING 5. 

“It's been very challenging...I think we’re executing extraordinary efforts,” Inslee said, "we're exercising every possible resource to get this critical highway open." 

He also added, "We've been very appreciative of people, they're resilient in these communities." 

RELATED: Volunteer convoy brings relief to those stranded for days in Skykomish

Skykomish Mayor Henry Sladek stood by his response to not declare an emergency, saying he didn't think the situation rose to the level of needing state assistance.

"I was never made aware of any potential for loss of life," he said. "I felt the support we were getting from King County was enough."

Washington State Department of Transportationsdecretary Roger Millar agreed, saying he felt the state reacted quickly, given the situation. However, he did say that he understands where residents around US 2 are coming from. “When you’re without power and with access and without communications, nothing is quick enough,” he said. 

Inslee said his office used executive authority to free up funds to get helicopters into the Skykomish area Wednesday to help knock snow off of treetops, as well as hire private contractors to help with tree removal. 

WSDOT reported at least 70 full or partial trees blocking US 2 and taking down power lines. At one point, the agency pulled its crews out because conditions were too dangerous.

"Every time they cut down a tree, or a vulnerable tree, or a tree that's already snapped, more trees are coming with it," said Washington State Patrol's Heather Axtman on Tuesday.

Donations of non-perishable food items, diapers, and other essentials for those impacted by the closure are being accepted at the Gold Bar Fire Department.

The King County Sheriff's Office said any Baring residents in need of immediate services like water, fuel, or propane should call the Skykomish Fire Station at 425-736-7654. Residents can also pick food or eat at the Skykomish Masonic Lodge located at 108 E Old Cascade HWY.

RELATED: Skykomish mayor explains why there was no emergency shelter open during snowstorm