The Latest: Oregon gov. declares state of emergency
Dec. 11, 2015
SEATTLE (AP) — The latest on heavy rains in the Pacific Northwest (all times local):
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency for 13 counties due to recent heavy rains, high winds, flooding and landslides.
The counties include: Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill.
The declaration ensures state resources, emergency response personnel and equipment can be activated to respond to communities if local resources are exhausted.
The state of emergency is in effect until further notice.
The Washington Department of Transportation has opened a single lane on the state's busiest roadway that was buried Wednesday by a massive landslide.
Some trucks had been stranded by the closure of Interstate 5 since Wednesday afternoon in southwest Washington about 26 miles north of Portland, Oregon.
Officials said more mudslides are possible in the area after days of drenching rains.
National Weather Service officials in Portland have confirmed a tornado touched down Thursday morning in the southwest Washington city of Battle Ground.
They are still determining the tornado's intensity rating.
City officials said 36 homes and two commercial buildings were damaged.
Authorities say a lightning strike sparked a fire that destroyed an Oregon home and killed two pets.
Jefferson Fire District spokeswoman Tammy Robbins says renter Maria Lugo awoke to the sound of what she thought was pounding rain or hail. When she looked out the window, she saw flames.
Lugo and five relatives — three of them children — escaped as flames engulfed the house. A Chihuahua named "Angel" and a bird named "Blue" did not make it out.
Firefighters needed 2 ½ hours to get the fire under control Thursday morning.
The 2,500-square foot home was built in 1940. Jefferson is about 65 miles south of Portland.
The National Weather Service says a two-person survey team is heading out to check on reports about a possible tornado touching down in southwest Washington.
Hydrologist Andy Bryant in Portland, Oregon, says the team will determine if damage reported Thursday in the city of Battle Ground was caused by a tornado or just high winds.
He says the area that includes southwest Washington and northwest Oregon typically sees about one tornado a year. The tornados tend to be short-lived and relatively weak compared to tornados in other parts of the country.
There have been reports of possible damage to a building but no injuries have been reported yet.
A woman who was stuck in a car behind the landslide on Interstate 5 took a scary mountain detour to get her 6-year-old grandson and his other grandmother back home Wednesday evening.
Diane Smith of Lacey, Washington, says she was directed off the freeway south of the landslide about 26 miles north of Portland, Oregon, after spending nearly three hours stopped on the interstate.
Because there were no signs telling her where to go once she left the freeway, Smith made a choice that led her to the steep, winding Green Mountain Road above Woodland, Washington.
The Washington Department of Transportation is not recommending people take that mountain road without guardrails to get around the landslide. But Smith said she did not know. She says five cars were following her and she was thankful when she got back down the other side and drove back onto I-5 again north of the slide.
She says she was scared and her ears were popping and she wasn't sure she was going the right way until she made it back to the freeway.
Her grandson declared the experience an adventure to remember.
Oregon State Police identified a woman who died when a car became submerged in a flood near her home as 72-year-old Penny Forrest.
The woman was a passenger in a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by her husband, Richard Forrest. Police say the 82-year-old driver went around a "road closed" sign at Lost Creek Road and Highway 30 in Clatskanie (KLATS'-kuh-neye).
The road had been closed because of this week's flooding. The vehicle stalled in high water and eventually became submerged.
Richard Forrest escaped, but his wife could not.
It's unclear if Forrest will be cited for going around the road closure. Lt. Bill Fugate (few-GAYT') says the investigation is not over.
Clatskanie is a town with fewer 2,000 residents. It's 60 miles northwest of Portland.
The rain is tapering off in western Washington, but forecasters at the National Weather Service say mudslide danger remains high and flooding is possible on the coast and along inland waters where high waves are expected.
Forecaster Kirby Cook says the strong weather systems are over for now, but people can expect steady rain of the usual winter variety over the weekend.
Cook says the threat of additional significant rainfall has ended and rivers will likely go off flood stage on Thursday.
Along the coast, waves as high as 30 feet were expected on Thursday. A coastal flooding watch is in effect until 1 a.m. Friday.
Western Washington weather is expected to return to a cooler, drier pattern early next week.
Rain again hit storm-ravaged western Oregon but the National Weather Service says it wasn't strong enough to cause river levels to rise.
Meteorologist Jon Bonk said Thursday that cities from Portland to the coast got two-tenths to a half-inch of rain overnight, and river levels should remain flat or recede.
A parade of storms this week caused flooding, landslides and power outages.
Showers are in the forecast through the weekend, but Bonk says the region is out of the woods because the major storm has shifted south into California.
One concern, however, is the possibility of thunderstorms accompanied by wind gusts and perhaps hail. That could cause problems for those trying to restore power and cleanup flood damage.
Washington state officials say it could be hours before a single lane is reopened on a major northwest thoroughfare that was swamped by a massive landslide triggered by days of pounding rain.
Some trucks have been stranded since Wednesday afternoon in southwest Washington about 26 miles north of Portland, Oregon. A shelter has been set up for stranded motorists at Woodland High School.
The Washington Department of Transportation says there's no estimate for when it can reopen northbound lanes of Interstate 5 — the state's busiest roadway — near Woodland as rain soaks the already drenched Pacific Northwest.
The department said Thursday morning it's working to get one lane open.