Winds gusting to 81 mph blew trees onto roads and across power lines as drenching rain pelted the Washington coast, bringing a danger of...
Winds gusting to 81 mph blew trees onto roads and across power lines as drenching rain pelted the Washington coast, bringing a danger of flooding across much of the western Washington.
The Grays Harbor County Public Utility District (PUD) reported 33,000 customers without electricity today, and most major roads in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties were closed or blocked, including U.S. Highways 12 and 101. At one point this morning nearly every road into Aberdeen was closed or blocked.
Two PUD workers trying to restore service were injured, one seriously in a 40-foot fall, when a windblown tree hit a lift truck bucket Sunday night, sheriff’s Deputy David A. Pimentel said. Both were hospitalized, one with head injuries and the other with back injuries.
Rescuers used chain saws and dodged falling trees to clear the way for an ambulance to the scene, Sheriff Michael J. Whelan said.
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“It was very dicey,” Whelan said, adding that he had to be picked up by a patrol car after a falling tree smashed his truck in the driveway at his home.
“In 30 years of law enforcement, it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen,” Whelan said.
Whelan said all access to the western part of Grays Harbor County was blocked.
“We have trees and power lines down literally all over the county and they’re blocking the roadways,” he said. “The wind so far has not abated. It’s been extremely strong.”
Crews won’t be able to reopen the roads until the wind dies down, Whelan said, though officials are trying to get some emergency routes open.
Repair crews were pulled off the roads and streets early today because of the continuing hazard, PUD officials said.
Doug Barker, managing editor of The Daily World in Aberdeen, said the newspaper had no electricity and only one reporter was able to get to work this morning. “We’re powerless and trying to figure out how to print today,” he said.
Statistics so far
A weather spotter reported winds of 60 mph gusting to 90 mph at 5 a.m. at Clallam Bay on the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula.
Rainfall in the six hours after midnight included 3.03 inches in Shelton, 3.02 in Bremerton, 2.01 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and 1.64 in Olympia.
Thirty-four rainfall totals included 5.72 inches at Shelton, 5.33 at Bremerton, 3.50 in Olympia and 3.31 at Sea-Tac, after snowfall ranging from dustings of an inch or less to as much as a foot in the outer suburbs east of Seattle on Saturday and early Sunday.
Oregon coast cut off
Twin storms cut off most of the northern Oregon coast today, knocking out transportation and communications.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski declared a state of emergency because of flooding and wind damage Monday, which will allow the state to provide aid to stricken counties without them having to ask for it.
The declaration is statewide, spokeswoman Patty Wentz said, adding that it will help get aid to where it is needed faster.
Highways closed, and telephone service was disrupted. Electricity was out in thousands of homes, and schools closed. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for seven coastal rivers, and two inland.
The state Department of Transportation warned drivers not to attempt passages through the Coast Range, where downed trees, rocks and mud slides and high water closed roads.
“This storm is hitting the coast so hard, it’s not leaving any road open,” said spokeswoman Christine Miles.
U.S. 101 along the coast also was closed in places.
Abby Kershaw of Oregon Emergency Management said telephone and other communications were so tenuous that it was impossible to determine how many people were out of their homes.
The Red Cross opened shelters at St. Helens, Vernonia and the Tillamook County fairgrounds, the last of which drew 30 people initially, said spokeswoman Lise Harwin. But she said communications were so broken that the organization couldn’t determine how many more might have arrived.
Early in the afternoon, it reported 40,000 homes without power, and it could be days before power is fully restored.
The Daily Astorian said it didn’t have power to run its presses Monday afternoon. Only in 1922, it said, when a fire destroyed downtown Astoria, had it missed an edition. It said it used Internet equipment at its sister paper in Pendleton to keep its Web site going and planned to print next at the Statesman Journal in Salem.
The Coast Guard station in Astoria lost communication with its command center, and the service launched a C-130 Hercules plane from Sacramento, Calif., to patrol the northern coast and handle distress calls.
At Tillamook, often hit by floods, Sheriff Todd Anderson said officials evacuated some motel occupants and recreational vehicles from two parks.
Winds blew steadily at 30 mph to 40 mph, with frequent gusts of up to 80 mph, said Steve Todd, meteorologist in charge at the service’s Portland office.
Gusts of more than 100 mph were reported half a dozen times on the coast, he said, with the highest reading at 129 mph at Bay City.
The state’s geology agency warned of fast-moving mudslides that can follow severe rain, urging people to avoid steep landscapes, such as canyon bottoms, stream channels, the bases of hillsides or road cuts.
Debris flows “can easily travel a mile or more, depending on the terrain,” said James Roddey of the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. “They’ll contain boulders and logs and transport those in a fast-moving soil and water slurry.”
The high winds snapped the Sitka spruce that shared honors for the nation’s largest.
Forester Paul Ries of the Oregon Department of Forestry said the 700-year-old spruce had been damaged a year ago and appears to have snapped about 75 feet from the ground, about as he and his colleagues expected, and had lost much of its foliage.
“The tree will now die,” he said. “It’s a sad event, but not unexpected. It’s part of the natural cycle of the tree.”
The tree shared co-champion status with a tree in Olympic National Park in Washington as the nation’s largest Sitka spruce, based on height, trunk circumference and crown spread.