1 killed by tree; storms drench Pacific Northwest

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PORTLAND, ORE. — Torrential rains pummeled parts of the Pacific Northwest for another night, causing mudslides and flooding roads, leaving an Oregon woman dead after a tree fell onto her house and sweeping seven people into a Washington river, where they were rescued.

A large Douglas fir tree crashed into a Portland home early Wednesday, killing a 60-year-old woman who was in bed.

The tree, roughly 30 inches in diameter, was uprooted and sliced through the front corner of the house from the back at about 3:30 a.m., pinning the woman underneath. Lt. Rich Tyler of the Portland Fire Bureau said the woman's brother and husband escaped without injury.

"The rooms they were in were not affected by the tree at all, but they had to get by the tree to get out," Tyler said.

Next door neighbor Sam Choumxay, whose bedroom window faces the woman's home, said he was woken up by the raging storm. He said he watched in horror as the tree fell onto his neighbor's house with a thud. The tree top slammed into two cars in Choumxay's driveway.

Choumxay said he ran outside, made it around the tree, and raced to his neighbors' front door.

"Is anybody hurt? Is anybody hurt? I just kept calling to them," he said.

More than 5 inches of rain have fallen on Portland since Sunday, and strong winds have uprooted trees from the saturated ground. At Sea-Tac Airport, where the official weather for Seattle is recorded, the weather service says 2.13 inches of rain fell on Tuesday. That beats the previous Dec. 8 record of 1.61 inches

In western Washington, seven people were swept into the Puyallup River from a riverbank homeless camp Wednesday morning.

Someone called 911 around 6:30 a.m. to report that people were in the river up to their waists and chests beneath the State Route 512 overpass, The News Tribune newspaper reported (http://is.gd/7Wk7jd).

All seven were pulled out of the river by Central Pierce Fire & Rescue by 8 a.m. and checked by paramedics.

Nearby, a small RV park was evacuated Wednesday morning as floodwaters stranded several recreational vehicles and small cars.

Firefighters went vehicle-to-vehicle to check on occupants and some people were evacuated by boat. The camp was a temporary home for several dozen RVs and camper-trailers.

The owner of the RV park, Kevin McLeod, hooked up a pump at midday to try to remove the water.

To the north, in Fall City, resident Eric West said flooding is typical for the Snoqualmie Valley, but this year seems to be a little worse than usual, with three or four floods.

"Times are changing," West said. "Through the summer, we had the driest summer on record and now we're making up for all the rain we missed in the summer time."

The Red Cross said it opened four shelters Tuesday in Milwaukie, Vernonia and Portland and in Kelso, Washington. A fifth shelter, in Clatskanie, Oregon, is being supported by the agency.

Meanwhile, the storm has led to power outages and closed schools.

Puget Sound Energy in Washington reported more than 70,000 power outages early Wednesday. Portland General Electric said crews are trying to restore power to 26,000 customers. Several Washington state school districts either closed or had late starts Wednesday.

The National Weather Service says wind and rain are expected to slow Wednesday, but snow may continue to fall in the mountains.

Many creeks and rivers were pushed to flood stage as residents in some communities stacked sandbags.

Andy Haner, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle, said every major river in western Washington has reached or will reach at least a minor flood stage over the next few days.

"This is a pretty significant flood event," he said, due to what the service is calling a parade of storms.

Major flooding was predicted for the Snoqualmie, Snohomish and Skykomish rivers north of Seattle, Haner said. In south central Washington, transportation officials closed a 45-mile stretch of U.S. Route 12 after rains washed out a portion of the road west of White Pass.

Firefighters in the Portland suburb of Forest Grove safely got a motorist into a boat early Wednesday after she was trapped by flooding.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said landslides and high water closed parts of many state highways.

High water was a problem along the Oregon Coast, where pooling caused lane and road closures, stranded cars and flooded neighborhoods. Heavy flooding led officials in Tillamook County to declare an emergency, The Oregonian reported.

Officials were also trying to determine how to repair two massive sinkholes that opened Monday — one near Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, a Portland suburb.

AP journalists Ted Warren, Manuel Valdes, Phuong Le and Donna Blankinship in Washington state contributed to this story.


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