Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Extreme Pacific Storm Batters Northwest With 100mph Winds, Major Flooding

December 4, 2007


ORTLAND, Ore. — Downed trees blocked roads and power outages were widespread Tuesday across much of the Northwest, where residents prepared for a massive cleanup effort after being battered by back-to-back storms.

Image: Despite road closure, drivers attempt to pass through a section of the road in Portland, Ore. (AP)

A severe storm smacked the region Monday with hurricane-force winds and several inches of rain, and was blamed for four deaths. It came only a day after another severe system moved through Sunday.

By Tuesday, the second system had moved on to the Upper Midwest, where it was predicted to drop just a few inches of snow. In its path, it left chaos: Roads were closed in Washington and Oregon because of downed trees and landslides, and many schools and government offices were closed for a second day.

The governors of Washington and Oregon declared states of emergency, which could speed relief efforts in flood-hit areas. The National Weather Service said 3 to 6 inches of rain had fallen across much of western Washington. The 24-hour rain total for Bremerton was 10.78 inches.

In Olympia, the rain turned a normally small creek into a roiling, muddy surge of water that tore through a wall at the Ranch House BBQ restaurant. Tables and booths were strewn across the street, and a storage shed was pushed about 300 feet away.

Christy Romo, who lives just up the hill, said she could hear the floodwaters coming and started packing before the first floor of her cabin was inundated.

"I knew I wouldn't have much time," Romo said. "I heard a bang, and then saw the water rising quickly."

Image: Justin Ralph rescues a dog who was trying to reach dry land in Woodinville, Wash. (AP)

Mudslides blocked numerous roads and forced an undetermined number of residents to evacuate condominiums, apartments and houses in Seattle, at least nine houses in suburban Burien and several mobile homes in Shelton.

Mudslides halted Amtrak passenger train service between Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia, for a second day Tuesday. Interstate 5, the principal north-south route along the West Coast, was closed near Centralia because of about 3 feet of water over the road.

The freeway will remain closed at least through Wednesday, and "it could well be longer than that if we've had some road washout," state transportation engineer Peter H. Craig said.

Rescue boats were used to grab flood-stranded residents, and GPS-equipped helicopters were used at night. One helicopter plucked people from the roof of a house, sheriff's Detective Matt Wallace said. Coast Guard helicopters had hoisted more than 100 people from areas surrounded by water in Washington, officials said.

Power companies said electricity may not be restored to some areas for three or four days, and some utilities planned to survey the damage by helicopter Tuesday. More stiff winds were likely, but nothing like the blasts that exceeded 120 miles mph at the height of the storm.

Most of the Olympic Peninsula, Kitsap County and southwest Washington were hit particularly hard by the storm. Gov. Chris Gregoire said some 80,000 people had lost electric power across western Washington. Portland-based Pacific Power said about 23,000 customers still were without power Monday night.

Image: Larissa Arstill waits at a Red Cross aid station for her husband Dana Arstill to return from their trailer in Tillamook, Ore.. The couple were awoken early Monday as their roof lifted off of their home. The state Department of Transportation told drivers to forget trying to get through the Coast Range, where downed trees, rocks and mud slides and high water closed roads. (AP)

At least four people were killed by the storm.

Two Oregon deaths were reported, including that of a 90-year-old woman who suffered what Tillamook County medical examiner Dr. Paul Betlinski called "a weather-related heart attack" as she evacuated. The driver of a truck swept away by floodwaters in the same area also was reported dead.

In Washington, one man in Aberdeen died when a tree fell on him as he was trying to clear another downed tree. Another person died from an undetermined medical problem after power was lost, said Grays Harbor County sheriff's Detective Ed McGowan.

The back-to-back storm fronts Sunday and Monday that were among the Northwest's worst in recent memory. The first storm killed at least 15 people, mostly in traffic accidents, as it marched across the country, dumping snow from the Midwest to the Northeast.

The winter weather spelled success for ski areas in New England that suffered through an abysmal winter last year. In Vermont, 7 inches of snow welcomed skiers and snowboarders Monday.

"It's not snow. It's white gold," said Christopher Francis, innkeeper at Ye Olde England Inne, a 30-room establishment in the shadow of Stowe Mountain Resort.


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