January 18, 2011 in City

Slides, minor flooding in region

Road worker killed when tree falls, hits him
Associated Press
Associated Press photo

The rushing Deschutes River put on a display of its natural power at Tumwater Falls Park on Monday as runoff from the torrential weekend rains sped toward Budd Inlet near Tumwater, Wash.
(Full-size photo)

PORTLAND – Heavy rain and runoff from melting snow helped push the Sandy River across a road near Mount Hood, washing it out and forcing residents to evacuate on foot.

The washout Sunday on Lolo Pass Road near the town of Zigzag was part of the damage done across Oregon and Washington state by heavy weekend rains that caused landslides and minor flooding.

The weather was also blamed for at least one death when a Washington State Department of Transportation worker died after being hit by a falling tree.

Billy Rhynalds, 66, a 12-year veteran of the department, was setting up safety cones to alert motorists to power lines knocked down on Highway 203 just south of Carnation when the tree fell on his truck and killed him Sunday night, according to WSDOT officials.

On Mount Hood in Oregon, the Hoodland Fire Department sent teams on foot and ATVs Monday to reach people in 30 to 40 homes cut off when the river washed out about a 300-yard-long section of Lolo Pass Road Sunday night.

“There are trees everywhere – it’s like a bomb went off. I don’t know how they’re going to fix it,” Becca Niday told KGW-TV as she headed out on foot.

According to the National Weather Service, as much as 6 to 10 inches of rain fell in about 24 hours in the Sandy River drainage while an additional 2 inches of snow melted on the flanks of Mount Hood.

The river appeared to have changed course when it washed out the road, also knocking out power to homes in the area.

Nearby, flooding forced the evacuation of at least 50 homes in the Welches and Rhododendron areas. Residents there scrambled to pile up sandbags to try and protect their homes as the Sandy River quickly rose.

In Southern Oregon, a rapidly rising Rogue River put emergency crews on alert Sunday, but meteorologists did not expect the river to reach flood stage.

In Washington, heavy rains were causing problems along the Pacific Coast and the Cascade Mountains with flood warnings issued for several waterways, officials and forecasters said.

Minor flooding was reported along several rivers, including the Cedar, Cowlitz, Snohomish and Tolt.

In Fall City, Wash., two people were rescued unharmed after they drove their car into a flooded road, the Seattle Times reported.

In Oregon, numerous mudslides were reported along the north coast, including Tillamook County, and in the Cascade Range.

Road crews cleared a large mudslide that shut down U.S. 26 east of Government Camp on Mount Hood, restoring traffic in both directions.

Fire crews in Randle in southwest Washington went door-to-door warning residents to watch the rising Cowlitz River and be prepared to evacuate if necessary, Fire Chief Jeff Jaques said Sunday.

Logan Harris, a spokesman with King County Flood Warning Center, said the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers crested Sunday afternoon and were receding.

“It’s good news in that the rivers appear to have stabilized,” he said. “It doesn’t appear that the water levels will increase. There will still be some moderate flooding as the water works its way downstream.”

He predicted the crest would reach Carnation in the morning and said residents should expect some moderate flooding and some roads would close.

Forecasters said drier and cooler weather should reach the region by Wednesday.

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