A Seattle pest control company says it continues seeing a surge of rats and roaches as the Highway 99 tunnel project continues picking up steam. (Sprague Pest Control image)

'Ratpocalypse' plaguing downtown as tunnel drilling picks up steam

A Seattle pest control company says it continues seeing a surge of rats and roaches as the Highway 99 tunnel project continues picking up steam. And with the huge drill, dubbed Bertha, slowly making her journey north beneath downtown, extermination experts predict it's going to get a lot worse.

"Both the roaches and the rats like it quiet and like it dark, and I know the shaking of the ground is affecting their behavior," says Mark Schmidt, district manager for Sprague Pest Solutions.

The company services over 300 commercial properties in the downtown corridor. And Schmidt says they've seen between a 60 and 80 percent jump in business since tunnel construction first started.

"We saw specific events, days where the posts went into the ground, five blocks away we were getting roaches on the 17th or 21st floor," he says.

WSDOT project managers say the problem should subside since the preliminary work sent most of the rats and rodents scrambling. And they say the tunnel operates well below sea level, below where the vermin live.

But Schmidt argues as the drill moves north, far more critters will be fleeing the vibration.

"You're still making a 3.5 earthquake every single day. It's going under some very old dirt and it's going to shake the core of Seattle. So I think it's going to shake a lot of rats out," he says.

The company is playing up the problem, dubbing it "ratpocalypse" on rolling bicycle ads being ridden around downtown. But Schmidt says it would be a lot easier if people sealed up their buildings before the rats and roaches came calling.

"It's amazing how unsecured facilities are from the rats," he says. "All it takes is a nickel-sized hole or smaller for a rodent to get in through the plumbing or electrical. It might as well be an open doorway. It's way easier to keep them out than get them out."

With digging scheduled to continue for the next two years or so along with construction on a new Seattle seawall beginning this fall, Schmidt predicts "ratcpocalypse" will continue for the foreseeable future.

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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