Officials Work to Save Homes after Two Days of Record Rains in Pacific Northwest
PORTLAND, Ore. As a storm that drenched Washington and Oregon for two days spent its force, trucks set to work on the Pacific Northwest coast dumping gravel to prevent houses from sliding into the ocean.
The record-setting rains killed at least one person, closed roads and threatened hundreds of homes. But forecasters predicted the rains would relent Wednesday.
"It's gone," said Dan Keirns, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire declared an emergency for 18 counties, authorizing the National Guard and the Emergency Management Division to offer assistance. Helicopters and hovercraft were put to work making rescues.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski declared an emergency in coastal Tillamook County, where about 100 people were evacuated because of rising floodwaters.
Fifteen to 20 dump trucks shuttled between a quarry and three houses above Gleneden Beach, where rain and wind threatened the foundations of two vacation homes and a year-round house, officials said.
Fire Chief Joshua Williams of Depoe Bay said contractors were trucking in material to shore up the foundation and trying to prevent further erosion.
"They're essentially making a road behind those homes," he said.
Farther north, in Clatsop County, high water blocked the coastal highway U.S. 101 to all but the largest vehicles, so the county sent a dump truck to fetch 300 ballots from Cannon Beach in the southern part of the county to the county courthouse in Astoria.
"That was very helpful," said County Clerk Nicole Williams.
In Washington state, at least one house was swept away and nearly 300 homes and cabins were threatened after the Cowlitz River burst its banks and changed course near Packwood, south of Mount Rainier, said sheriff's deputy Stacy Brown.
More than 20 people waited Tuesday in Packwood's Four Square Church after being told their homes were imperiled by the changing river flow.
"I don't think anybody expected it to rise as fast as it did -- like a boiling pot of chocolate milk," said church youth leader Amber Low. "It was just logs and root wads. It wasn't very pretty."
About 200 to 225 elk hunters were evacuated Monday from hunting camps, said Lewis County Sheriff Steve Mansfield, and a 20-year-old hunter died when his pickup truck was swept into the river.
Tens of thousands of children were given the day off from school Tuesday.
Rainfall records were set Monday across western Washington, including 8.22 inches at Stampede Pass, which broke an all-time rain record of 7.29 inches set on Nov. 19, 1962.
"It's something that happens once every 10 years," said weather service hydrologist Brent Bower.
The storm dumped from 3 to 15 inches on Oregon by Tuesday, mostly on the coast and the northwestern corner of the state.
West of Mount Hood, 17 homes in the town of Brightwood were evacuated because of the rising Sandy River. Most rivers and streams in the region were under flood watches or warnings.
Rescuers used a boat to pick up seven illegal campers stranded by rising waters on the Sandy River delta near Troutdale, east of Portland. The area is known as a homeless encampment.
Associated Press writers Curt Woodward in Olympia, Wash., Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle and Typh Tucker in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.
Source: Associated Press