One dead, thousands without power after Pacific Northwest storms

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 09, 2015 3:13 PM

By Courtney Sherwood and Eric M. Johnson

PORTLAND, Ore./SEATTLE (Reuters) - An Oregon woman was killed in her bed early Wednesday after a tree crashed through the roof of her home as storms continued to cause severe flooding, power outages and evacuations across the U.S. Pacific Northwest, authorities said.

Portland has endured more than 5 inches of rain in three days, nearly as much as falls in all of December in a typical year, the National Weather Service said. Mountainous areas of Oregon and neighboring Washington state have seen more than a foot of rain.

The record-breaking storms opened sinkholes in several major roads, caused rivers to spill over their banks, and closed roads and schools for a third day in the worst-hit areas across the Pacific Northwest region.

The weather service forecast a break from intense rain on Wednesday, but warned of flooding along the coast.

"We're expecting isolated rain today, but it won't be widespread, and rivers are going to start to crest and go back down. Now we're worried about wind," said National Weather Service meteorologist Gerald Macke.

In Portland, a 60-year-old woman died in bed when a tree fell on her house, according to the city's fire department.

In Washington state, outside Tacoma, emergency officials rescued several people who were swept into the swollen Puyallup River overnight on Wednesday from a bankside homeless encampment, police said.

In Puyallup, about 10 miles (16.09 km) from Tacoma, rescuers helped residents evacuate their homes in a flooded trailer park, police said.

Utility Puget Sound Energy reported about 45,000 customers were without electricity on Wednesday morning after fierce winds and hail hit the Seattle area.

On Wednesday, all roads in and out of the rural community of Vernonia, Oregon, were closed for several hours due to landslides, high water and bridge erosion, fire officials said.

West Oregon Electric, which serves Vernonia, said many areas of the community were without power.

Storms have also left 26,000 customers without power in the Portland area, utility Portland General Electric said.

Last December, harsh weather was blamed in the deaths of a homeless man camping with his son near Ashland, Oregon as well as a passenger in a car that swerved into a tree in Portland.

(Reporting by Courtney Sherwood in Portland, Oregon and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)