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Melting snow brings flooding as new storm looms

December 31, 1996

SEATTLE (AP) _ Weary Northwest residents, sloshing through melting snow as rain fell and roofs collapsed, prepared for yet another storm that could bring high wind and more flooding on New Year’s Eve.

``We’re telling people to replenish their emergency supply kits, if they’ve been using them, because they may need them again,″ said Mark Clemens of the Washington state Division of Emergency Management.

At least 45,000 homes and businesses in Washington and Oregon remained without electricity late Monday after back-to-back winter storms _ followed by heavy rain and rising temperatures _ killed 10 people, caused mudslides and avalanches and led to scores of evacuations.

Along the Tualatin River south of Portland, Ore., many residents wasted no time in moving out as the water was expected to crest 3 feet above flood level Wednesday _ 2 feet lower than in February’s historic flood.

``It’s been U-Haul city here today,″ said Maurice McConnell, manager of the Glen Cove Apartments in Tualatin, where 32 units were evacuated Monday. ``At one time, I think there were 10 U-Hauls in our parking lot.″

Remodeling of the flood-damaged apartments was completed only four months ago, and the name of the complex had been changed from Riverview Apartments to remove the stigma left by February’s flood.

Spirits rose in southwestern Washington’s Lewis County as the Chehalis River crested and began falling slowly Monday night. No major evacuations were reported after the river flooded low-lying fields and roads and swirled around some buildings.

Storms since Thursday dumped up to 2 feet of snow and sent shivers through the region with periods of freezing rain. Then temperatures climbed into the high 40s, and heavy rain helped turn the snow into a sodden mess. Nearly 3 inches of rain fell on Seattle in a 24-hour period that ended early Monday.

The National Weather Service forecast more rain and winds of 40 to 50 mph, gusting to 60 to 70 mph, along the Washington coast and through much of northwest Washington by late this afternoon.

Flood warnings were posted for numerous rivers in both states. Winter weather advisories for snow and freezing rain were in effect through tonight for the Cascade Range and the Okanogan Valley of northeastern Washington.

Washington’s major east-west highways across the Cascade Range, including Interstate 90, remained closed today by snow and a threat of avalanches. Shortages of gasoline, milk and other supplies began to develop in Yakima and other eastern Washington towns dependent on truckers who drive the routes.

And Idaho’s only north-south route, U.S. 95, was closed today by a landslide. Officials said rock, mud and at least two feet of water covered nearly two miles of the highway north of New Meadows.

The westbound lanes of another major shipping route for the region, I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge, were reopened early today by Oregon highway officials. Eastbound lanes of the highway, closed for two days by ice and snow slides, remained blocked.

``You’ve got the panic factor,″ said manager Jeanine Benoit of Benoit’s Hi-Ho Foods in Yakima. ``People who you don’t normally see ... buy a basketful instead of a thing or two because they don’t want to go out again.

``I’m not out of anything yet, but it won’t be long,″ Benoit said.

Dozens of flat roofs on stores in the Puget Sound area collapsed under the weight of heavy, rain-sodden snow. Water rushed into a Kmart in north Seattle. A supermarket in Bremerton was in shambles after its roof collapsed.

More than a half-dozen roof collapses were reported over the weekend in eastern Washington, including a food-processing plant in Ellensburg and a new high school gym in Entiat.

At an emergency shelter at North Thurston High School in Olympia, 50 miles south of Seattle, evacuees were losing patience.

``I’ve been holding on really good, but now it’s like ... today is the day I lose it,″ said Lisa Greene, 34, flailing her arms as she spent her fifth day at the shelter.

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