Deaths, flooding as storm hit Oregon and Washington state
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A winter storm that brought powerful wind gusts to Oregon on Tuesday caused at least two fatal car accidents that left four people dead, preliminary police investigations have found. Weather conditions also appeared to have contributed to a third fatal crash that killed one person and injured another, police said.
Three people were killed, including a 4-year-old girl, when severe weather caused a large tree to fall on their pickup truck as they were driving on U.S. 26 about 15 miles east of the coastline, Oregon State Police said in a news release. The passengers were deceased when first responders arrived at the scene.
Further east on U.S. 26 on Mount Hood, a motorist was killed when a large tree fell on the cab of the commercial truck he was driving because of snow and strong winds, causing it to lose control and leave the highway, state police said. The 53-year-old driver, who was alone in the truck, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Another person died when a tree fell and struck a pickup they were riding in as a passenger on Interstate 84 near Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge, the agency said. The driver was injured and taken to a hospital. The weather appears to have contributed to the tree falling, said state police spokesperson Captain Kyle Kennedy.
Strong winds felled trees and and knocked out power lines across large swaths of the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday, cutting power for more than 160,000 people at certain points. Wind gusts reached 86 mph near Cape Perpetua on Oregon’s central coast and 107 mph near the iconic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, said Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service’s Portland office.
Utility companies have progressively restored power, but more than 30,000 people in Oregon were still affected by outages as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to online tracker PowerOutage.
Portland General Electric and Pacific Power — among the utilities reporting the highest number of outages — both said they had hundreds of service crew members, including from out of state, working to assess and repair damage.
In Washington state, thousands of residents east of Seattle remained without power Wednesday afternoon after the previous day’s wind storm caused extensive damage to power lines in and around North Bend and Snoqualmie.
Gerald Tracy, a spokesperson with Puget Sound Energy, told KOMO-TV that power was expected to be restored to the area around 10 p.m. Wednesday, with the caveat that additional problems could push that timeline back.
“It is mountainous terrain, more rural areas, where sometimes our crews will have to hike out on foot and use hand tools to take care of the situation,” Tracy said.
Tuesday’s storm system also brought massive waves, high tides and flooding to the region.
Wave heights reached 30 feet along the Oregon coast, the National Weather Service said.
Storm surges flooded parts of Washington state, including Seattle, where some residents of the South Park neighborhood kayaked through the streets and used buckets to clear their homes of water.
A record high tide of 18.4 feet (5.61 meters) submerged parts of the state capital of Olympia and washed jellyfish over the shoreline onto the city’s streets, officials said.
A coastal flood advisory is in effect for the Seattle area through Friday afternoon.
Associated Press writer Lisa Baumann contributed from Bellingham, Wash.
Claire Rush is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Claire on Twitter.