| Floods plague Northwest
| Thursday, December 6, 2007
|CHEHALIS, Washington (AP) -- The drenching rain and howling wind were gone but flooding concerns persisted Wednesday as anxious residents waited for water to recede so they could see what was left after this week's fierce storm.
The storm, which killed at least seven people in the Pacific Northwest before moving on Tuesday, left behind flooded homes, fallen trees and washed-out roads, including the region's largest highway.
On Wednesday, the storm continued pushing east, dumping snow across the Midwest, and was blamed for two traffic deaths in Wisconsin.
Damage could be in the billions of dollars, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday.
She said she was pushing to deliver a damage estimate to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and expected a presidential emergency declaration that could speed delivery of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies. See photos of the flooding »
At least 300 people had been rescued by helicopters from the Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard and other agencies, and flights continued in what Gregoire described as the state's largest aerial search-and-rescue operation in a decade.
"Those folks who are literally homeless today still have a spirit in them," Gregoire said. "They are determined to get back to their homes and get their lives back together again."
Some people spent Wednesday looking for the lost. In the Lewis County town of Winlock, divers planned to search normally tiny Wallers Creek for Richard Hiatt, 81, believed to have been swept away when a bank gave out from underneath him.
"It happened so quickly," daughter-in-law Sharon Hiatt said Tuesday. "That's the only possibility, that he fell into the creek."
At least half of downtown Aberdeen had electricity Wednesday and Grays Harbor Community Hospital no longer had to rely on emergency generators, said Aberdeen police Detective George J. Kelly. Tens of thousands were without power in Oregon and Washington state at the height of the storm.
National Guard troops were summoned early Wednesday to help evacuate a 20-unit trailer park near Elma threatened by the flooding Chehalis River, Kelly said. Watch water swamp a Wal-Mart »
Flooding about 90 miles west of Seattle also was approaching U.S. Highway 12, a principal link to the Puget Sound area, Kelly said. Check out a map of some flooded areas »
As the water started to rise outside their Lewis County home, Terry Roberts moved his cars to higher ground, shepherded his wife and two children into their RV and hit the road.
They didn't get far.
"We were on dry road and all of a sudden, the water started swirling around," Roberts said, standing with his wife in a temporary shelter in Chehalis after being rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. "That's when we got on the CB and called for help."
Interstate 5 has been shut down since Monday at Centralia because of flooding. At one point Tuesday, officials said a three-mile section of the road was under as much as 10 feet of water from the Chehalis River.
The interstate, which is the main north-south route between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, was expected to be closed at least through Thursday.
In Tillamook, Oregon, home of large dairy cattle herds, the smell of manure was pervasive as shopkeepers downtown shoveled out their businesses.
Ben and Amanda Beal had moved to a motel with their two young children when police notified everyone there to evacuate. Just as they left the parking lot, waves swelled over Highway 101.
"I thought we were going to be swept away," said Amanda Beal. "You could feel the water pushing the Blazer. The winds were blowing at 100 miles per hour."
With I-5 closed, state officials were recommending a lengthy detour across the Cascade mountains and down through central Washington -- a route that roughly doubles the three-hour trip from Seattle to Portland.
The storm overwhelmed a number of sewage treatment plants, allowing tons of raw sewage to spew into Puget Sound.
Mudslides halted Amtrak passenger train service between Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia, at least through Wednesday.
The storm was blamed for five deaths in Washington state, including two hikers who died in an avalanche and a man who was buried by a mudslide. Two Oregon deaths were reported, including a driver swept away by high water.
The storm moved out to the Upper Midwest, where it dumped as much of 9 inches of snow in parts of North Dakota and two people died in a weather-related car accidents in Wisconsin. Western Ohio was predicted to get as much as 7 inches of snow.
A small airplane headed to Buffalo, New York, crashed amid falling snow near the airport in Columbus, Ohio, killing two on board, authorities said. Weather was being considered by investigators trying to determine a cause of the crash.
The snow temporarily closed Milwaukee's airport and created delays and cancellations at several other Midwestern airports, including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where more than 200 flights had been canceled. The snow also caused a bus crash in Indiana that injured 21 people, authorities said.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 1:41 PM