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The Journal Gazette

Monday, November 19, 2012 10:00 pm

Wind, rain slam Pacific Northwest

By DOUG ESSERAssociated Press

Rain and wind pounded Washington and Oregon on Monday, snarling the commute, causing sporadic road closures and power outages and at least one death.

The wet weather was expected to continue throughout the week, and forecasters warned that Hurricane strength wind into the evening on the Washington and Oregon coasts.

"Not a dry day for a while," said meteorologist Johnny Burg of the National Weather Service's Seattle office.

A hunter on Oregon's northwest coast was killed when a tree crashed on his tent near Nehalem Monday morning. Two hunters in an adjacent camp heard the tree snap as gusts reached more than 70 mph, and saw it lying across the tent. They cut it away in an attempt to rescue the man, to no avail.

Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long identified the hunter as Nathan Christensen, 52, of Seattle.

A Portland police officer was seriously injured Monday during all-terrain vehicle training when a tree fell. Sgt. Pete Simpson said the accident on Hayden Island in the Columbia River appeared to be weather-related.

Forecasters in Seattle said up to 5 inches of rain could fall in the next couple of days in the mountains below snow level and more than 2 inches in the Western Washington lowlands.

Heavy rain greeted Monday morning commuters in the Puget Sound area as they splashed through deep puddles in the streets. Portions of Interstate 5 lanes and ramps in the Seattle area were closed by water over the roadway.

In southwest Washington, a Washington State Patrol car and another vehicle were struck by a tree carried by a mudslide on Highway 101 near Naselle.

The patrol car started burning and the trooper had to break a window to crawl to safety. The trooper was unhurt, and the female driver of the other vehicle was OK except for neck pain. Both vehicles were destroyed by the fire.

Rains already have pushed the Skokomish River in Mason County west of Seattle to flood stage and there's a warning for flooding on the Chehalis, Satsap, Newaukum and Willapa rivers in southwest Washington. Some streams also may overflow, but no major flooding is expected. More than 3 inches of rain was recorded at Montesano in the 24 hours ending at 9 a.m. Monday.

The Washington Transportation Department said it was closing the North Cascades Highway at 6 p.m. Monday because of avalanche danger from quickly deepening snow.

Forecasters expect 9 to 30 inches of snow in the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, mostly above 4,000 feet. Changing periods of rains, snow or freezing rain will likely make driving a challenge through the Cascade highway passes.

The Pacific storms are rolling across Eastern Washington with the same mix of mountain snow and valley rains with a chance of minor flooding. High winds were added for Monday in parts of Eastern Washington.

There could be a break between storms for Thanksgiving Day.

Stormy weather has already caused small power outages in some areas. About 2,800 customers in the north Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park lost power Sunday evening when a tree fell into power lines.

"This is usually when we see windstorms, rain, river flooding and mountain snow," Burg said. "We've been lucky so far we haven't seen a big wind. The winter is young."


Associated Press writer Steven DuBois in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.