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Child Swept Away In Creek During Monster Pacific Northwest Storm

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(credit: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(credit: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A monster Pacific Northwest storm has claimed its first life — a child whose body was pulled from an Oregon creek where a car was swept away from a grocery store parking lot.

Another child and a man were rescued Wednesday evening, but rescuers searched for another adult missing in the creek in the Willamette Valley community of Albany, Ore., about 70 miles south of Portland, Ore., said fire department spokeswoman Wanda Omdahl.

The child who escaped was taken to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland.

Omdahl said she didn’t know the age or gender of either child.

Rising water from recent heavy rains swelled Periwinkle Creek and pulled the car from the parking lot of Mega Foods about 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“We had a ton of rain,” Omdahl said. “I haven’t seen that creek like that since ’96.”

“The water just got high so fast,” she said. “It’s a big tragedy.”

People across the Northwest confronted icy roads, power outages and the dangers of flooding from melting snow Thursday after the windy winter storm dropped more than a foot of snow in some places, causing school closures, knocking out electricity to thousands and leaving hundreds of accidents in its wake.

In Washington, the National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning Thursday for the Seattle area and the state’s southwest interior until noon and ice on three runways shut down Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport Thursday morning. Spokesman Perry Cooper told KOMO-TV crews hoped deicer would allow it to reopen before airlines had to cancel very many flights.

Transportation Department trucks were out spreading salt and deicer to ease the morning commute in Seattle.

The National Weather Service forecasts rain to return by afternoon in Western Washington. Snow is still in the forecast for Eastern Washington into Friday. Washington State University in Pullman was closed.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for several Oregon rivers and several roads were closed because of flooding in Salem.

Nearly a foot of new snow fell in Olympia, Wash., where 11 inches was measured at the airport Wednesday. The record is 14.2 inches on Jan. 24, 1972.

Lewis County, south of Olympia, had the highest snowfall amounts, ranging from 12 to 17 inches.

“It’s unusual to get this much snow for western Washington,” said Dennis D’Amico, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

Thursday’s forecast was for a mix of snow and rain, and the weather service warned that urban and small stream flooding was possible Friday, when another storm was expected to hit the state. Rain and temperatures in the 40s would start melting snow on the ground.

Forecasters warned that heavy rain combined with snow melt could lead to some Washington river flooding, especially in the Chehalis River Basin, an area that has been hit by significant floods in recent years.

Officials in Lewis County said they didn’t yet have concerns about flooding on the Chehalis River, but were monitoring the amount of snow they receive.

More than 40,000 Western Washington electrical customers lost power at least temporarily late Wednesday, in many cases as icy, snow-laden tree limbs drooped or fell onto power lines. Many of the outages were quickly restored.

Washington residents had plenty of warning as snow showers started over the weekend.

Seattle and many other school districts canceled Wednesday classes in advance. Alaska Airlines announced late Tuesday that it canceled 38 flights into and out of Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Washington State University announced it was cancelling all classes Thursday at its Pullman campus in southeastern Washington, where more snow was expected. The University of Washington cancelled Thursday classes at three campuses, including Seattle.

Seattle schools were also closed again Thursday, as were schools in Bellingham in northwest Washington, and in southeast Washington’s Pasco, Kennewick and Richland.

As of Wednesday night, the Washington State Patrol had responded to 261 collisions in the preceding 21 hours, Trooper Guy Gill said. No fatalities were reported.

“I saw a guy in my rear mirror,” Gill said earlier. “I saw headlights and taillights and headlights and taillights again as he spun around off the road.”

In Oregon, high winds hammered parts of the coast and caused power outages that initially affected tens of thousands of customers, with reports of gusts as high as 113 mph. There were no immediate reports of serious damage.

At the Capitol in Washington state, it was business as usual Wednesday.

Some state employees drove into work, but others walked in, and at least one employee was seen cross-country skiing to the campus. The 60-day legislative session began Jan. 9.

In Tacoma, which had about 7 inches of snow for the morning rush hour, a kilt-clad, barelegged Charles Hetrick frolicked with his dog in a park.

“I’ve worn nothing but kilts for the last six years, so I didn’t even think about it when I put it on this morning,” Hetrick said.

In Seattle, a fleet of 30 plows, de-icing trucks and graders was deployed to remove snow from main city streets. It had stopped snowing in Seattle by Wednesday afternoon, but several inches of snow remained.

Hundreds of people careened down Queen Anne Hill, one of Seattle’s steepest, on skis, sleds and laundry baskets — narrowly missing cars that crossed the intersection at the bottom.

Jake Munson, an 18-year-old student at the Art Institute of Seattle, joined two friends in sliding down on an air mattress covered with a clear plastic bag.

“I’ve done the whole tubing thing, but I had more fun doing this,” he said. “It’s way faster and riskier. There’s fear — you don’t want to run into a pole or something.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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