Wild Northwest Weather Eases Drought Worries

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Oregon declares emergency for counties hit by storm.

SEATTLE — Fierce Northwest storms that sent rivers bursting from their banks, closed roadways and produced a rare tornado have had one positive effect — easing summer drought concerns that prompted cities to active water shortage plans. The storms that killed at least two people in Oregon this week were easing a bit, but forecasters said mudslide danger on the saturated hills would remain high through the weekend. Pacific Northwest on Thursday, triggering a state of emergency in several counties, after it received record-breaking rainfall that left two dead in Oregon and triggered widespread flooding, landslides and power cuts. A rain-soaked hillside collapsed Wednesday north of Portland, Oregon, on the main highway connecting Washington and Oregon, stranding thousands of motorists on Interstate 5. Periods of heavy rain and fierce winds will continue across the region and down into northern California as the next installment of storms moves onshore, and warnings of coastal floods were issued for 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. local time on Friday morning (1100 to 1700 GMT), the National Weather Service said. “Heavy rains and wind have required the evacuation of residences and mudslides and high water have severely damaged or blocked major roadways in these areas of the state,” she said in a statement.

Meteorologists said the El Nino weather phenomenon, which can trigger above average precipitation in areas like the Pacific Northwest, is expected to remain strong through this winter. “We still have rivers over flood stage in 11 counties as of 6 a.m. (local) but most of the rivers have crested and are falling,” said Washington Military Department spokesman Mark Stewart. Smith, who was driving her 6-year-old grandson and his other grandma back from Vancouver, Washington, probably made the wrong choice, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. Officials used social media to discourage drivers from taking the mountain road without guardrails around the slide, but as Smith points out, she was driving, not checking her cellphone for updates. In Oregon, a 60-year-old Portland woman died in bed this week when a tree fell on her house and another woman drowned when her car became submerged in standing high water in the state’s north, officials said. Power outages affected thousands of residents in various parts of the region with a principal utility in Portland, the largest city in Oregon, reporting 2,250 without power on Thursday evening.

In Kalama, along the Columbia River in southern Washington, flooding prompted evacuations of businesses and homes and a pool of sewage-tainted water formed over several blocks and began seeping into the police station and other buildings, Stewart said. (Reporting by Eric M. The moisture is helping to fill reservoirs earlier and recharging the groundwater, said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service based in Mount Vernon.

Johnson in Seattle; Additional reporting by Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Oregon, Rory Carroll in San Francisco and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Hay and Nick Macfie) Officials say the tornado damaged 36 homes and two commercial buildings as well as snapping power poles, downing trees and blowing away fences in a path two miles long.

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