Storms and Floods in Pacific Northwest Leave 2 Dead in Oregon, Washington Declares Emergency

Three days of heavy rain in parts of Oregon and Washington have caused widespread flooding and landslides, prompting flood rescues and forcing homes to be evacuated. Coastal areas are now also faced with the threat of flooding from storm surge and high tides.

The heavy rain began earlier this week and had caused creeks and rivers to overflow around Portland, Oregon, on 08 December 2015.

More storms, strong winds and heavy rain have caused further damage since then. National Weather Service Seattle said that Seattle the first 9 days of December had been the wettest on record. At least 2 deaths have been reported as a result of floods and strong winds.

On Wednesday 09 December 2015, a woman drowned in her car after it became submerged in flood water in Clatskanie, Columbia County, Oregon. Also on Wednesday, a woman was reported killed by a falling tree in Portland.

More heavy rain has increased the risk of flash floods, overflowing rivers and landslides. Furthermore, storm surge combined with high tides and high rivers are likely to cause coastal in both Washington and Oregon over the next 2 days.

The National Weather Service warned of “dangerous breakers of 35 to 45 feet”, and that “tides and combined storm surge will run 2 feet above the astronomical predicted values this week. The highest tides of the cycle will occur around noon to 3 pm Thursday and Friday.”

NWS also said that “rivers will be running high due to runoff from the recent rainfall and the additional rainfall expected on Thursday and Friday. High runoff will increase flood potential on the tidally influenced reaches and estuaries of the coastal rivers”.

Washington Governor Proclaims State of Emergency

Washington Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed a state of emergency in Washington yesterday following “days of hazardous weather with landslides closing major highways, high winds knocking out power to thousands, and rainfall causing wide-spread flooding of roadways, homes and property”.

In a statement, the Governor said that the storms had “produced high winds and heavy rainfall that saturated soils, caused major flooding, landslides, stream bank and slope erosion, fallen tree limbs, broken and uprooted trees, and flying debris”.

Some of the most severe flooding has taken place in Cowlitz, Lewis and Snohomish counties, but there also were wind and flood advisories in Eastern Washington.  Red Cross shelters are now open in Naches, Longview, and Packwood, and a service center is established in Snohomish. Two shelters in Skagit County have closed.

This is the second state disaster declaration in 4 weeks for Washington. On 18 November 2015 the Governor was prompted to declare a state disaster for all counties. Three people died in the November storms.

Flooding in the Centralia/Chehalis area, as seen from the air. (Photo: Washington State Patrol via Washington Emergency Management)
Flooding in the Centralia and Chehalis areas of Washington. Photo: Washington Emergency Management
Central Pierce Fire and Rescue helped 7 homeless citizens from the Puyallup River and evacuated several citizens from the Riverview RV Park in the 1000 block of E. Main Street in Puyallup Wednesday. (Photo via Puyallup Police Dept. Facebook)
Flood rescues and evacuations after the Puyallup River overflowed in Washington. Photo: Puyallup Police Dept.

Social Media