Record-Breaking Northwest Storm Pounds Region, Kills One
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SEATTLE (AP) — Residents in Washington and Oregon braced for more wet weather after a fierce storm swamped streets, toppled trees and large trucks, cut power to nearly 50,000 residents, and caused at least one death.
Though the main threat is over, the rain will continue but shouldn’t disrupt Thanksgiving holiday travel plans, since all major roads and passes in the Northwest are open.
Thanksgiving should be mainly dry in the Northwest, the National Weather Service said, but drivers may encounter winter driving conditions in mountain passes on their way home over the weekend.
Flood warnings were issued for a handful of western Washington rivers, with moderate flooding expected Tuesday along the Chehalis River in the Centralia area. Residents there were told where to find sandbags and were directed to move any endangered livestock to higher ground.
Nearly 2 inches of rain fell in six hours Monday in one Seattle neighborhood — a total that SeattlePublic Utilities meteorologist James Rufo-Hill called “extraordinary.”
“It was a pretty big storm for most of the city — lots of rain in a relatively short amount of time,” he said, but several neighborhoods “really got drenched.”
The rain caused widespread reports of flooded roads and highways, some mudslides and residential flooding, and even sewage overflows in parts of Seattle and Everett. Several blocks of downtown streets were briefly flooded in Port Orchard, west of Seattle.
Puget Sound Energy reported 24,000 electricity outages at mid-afternoon in its western Washington service area, with most service restored by Monday evening.
In Oregon, the storm knocked out electricity to as many as 24,000 Pacific Power customers. Several thousand remained in the dark Monday night, mainly in Clatsop, Lincoln and Coos counties.
BNSF Railways imposed a 48-hour moratorium on passenger and commuter trains travel between Everett and Seattle, starting around noon Monday, after at least 10 mudslides affected the tracks, spokesman Gus Melonas said.
Wet weather was expected to continue through the week, but National Weather Service meteorologist Jay Neher in Seattle said Monday night that the “heavy rain is over.”
“We’re into showers now,” Neher said.
On Oregon’s northwest coast, a hunter was killed Monday morning when a tree crashed on his tent near Nehalem. Two hunters in an adjacent camp heard the tree snap as gusts reached more than 70 mph and saw it lying across the tent. They cut it away in an attempt to rescue the man, to no avail.
Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long identified the hunter as Nathan Christensen, 52, of Seattle.
A Portland police officer was seriously injured during all-terrain vehicle training when a tree fell. Sgt. Pete Simpson said the accident on Hayden Island in the Columbia River appeared to be weather-related.
Also in Oregon, a woman who identified herself as Susan Seale and said she was homeless called 911 Monday afternoon to report that her Clackamas campsite southeast of Portland was surrounded by rising water.
Rescuers used a small boat to rescue Seale and her dog, Clackamas County sheriff’s Sgt. Adam Phillips said.
In southwest Washington, a Washington State Patrol car and another vehicle were struck by a tree carried by a mudslide on U.S. Highway 101 near Naselle.
The patrol car started burning, and the trooper had to break a window to crawl to safety. The trooper was unhurt, and the female driver of the other vehicle was OK except for neck pain. Both vehicles were destroyed by the fire.
Four Seaside, Ore., firefighters narrowly avoided injury when a tree fell on their fire truck. Fire Chief Joey Daniels said the four had gone to U.S. Highway 26 to help clear a tree. When they got back into the truck, they saw another one starting to fall.
“They all opened their doors and jumped out,” Daniels said.
Strong winds overturned large commercial trucks on two highways Monday. One tractor-trailer tipped over while crossing the Astoria-Megler Bridge that carries U.S. 101 across the Columbia River. That caused a lengthy traffic headache.
Another semi was blown onto its side in the middle of the Chehalis River Bridge in Aberdeen, on the Washington coast, Aberdeen police said.
In Washington, peak storm gusts reached 101 mph on the Megler bridge linking Oregon and Washington and 61 mph at Hoquiam on the Washington coast. They hit 114 mph on isolated Naselle Ridge in the mountains of southwest Washington, the Weather Service reported.
On the Oregon coast, strong gusts included 98 mph at Yaquina Head, 85 mph at Lincoln City and 80 mph at Newport, the Weather Service said. In Newport, the wind peeled back the roof of a restaurant.
The Weather Service reported 24-hour Washington rainfall totals as of Monday evening that included 4.09 inches in Bremerton, west of Seattle; 2.97 inches at Hoquiam on the Washington coast; and 6 inches at Cushman Dam on the Olympic Peninsula.
In Oregon, Lincoln City saw 3.55 inches of rain in 24 hours while 2.13 inches fell at the Portland airport and 2.08 inches in Salem. The Portland suburb of Hillsboro reported 3.42 inches, the Weather Service said.
Grand Ronde in the Oregon Coast range reported 6.10 inches.
In Portland, Weather Service meteorologist Kirsten Elson said powerful Northwest storms are not uncommon even as early as November. The storms, however, generally include either heavy winds or drenching rains, not both.
Associated Press writer Steven DuBois in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.