Record rain in Pacific Northwest may complicate Thanksgiving travel

November 19, 2012|By Elaine Porterfield and Teresa Carson | Reuters

SEATTLE/PORTLAND (Reuters) - Record-breaking rain and high winds in the Pacific Northwest on Monday triggered mudslides, toppled trees and complicated travel plans for those hitting the road for Thanksgiving, officials said.

Federally run Amtrak halted train service between Seattle and Vancouver, and some commuter rail service from Seattle northward was also canceled likely through Wednesday due to mudslides, transportation officials said.

Another powerful storm is expected Monday night that could cause more landslides, the Oregon Department of Geology said.

More than 39 million Americans are expected to drive during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, making it one of the busiest travel days of the year.

In Oregon, a falling tree killed a 52-year-old elk hunter in his tent Monday morning, the Oregonian newspaper said. Nathan Christiansen was camping near a coastal town where wind gusts had reached up to 100 miles per hour (161 km per hour).

Parts of the Oregon coast had hurricane-force wind warnings on Monday, the National Weather Service said.

"We have had some records broken today," National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Burke said, noting that the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had already received 2.03 inches of rain, breaking the old November 19 record of 1.23 inches set in 1962.

"That was a long standing record, so it obviously has rained quite a bit," Burke said, adding that continued rainfall was likely to send that record even higher.

Downed trees left roughly 24,000 customers without power, mostly along the coastal region. Some power has been restored but about 15,000 customers were still in the dark, said Tom Gauntt, a spokesman for Pacific Power.

Oregon's capitol city of Salem had set up four sandbagging sites "due to the possibility of local flooding occurring over the next few days," the public works department said.

Standing water flooded across Seattle streets during the day, causing some havoc for drivers as storm sewers overflowed.

A commercial truck blew over on a bridge connecting Oregon and Washington, closing that passageway for at least seven hours on Monday.

The main route along the Oregon coast, Highway 101, was flooded in several places, and the Oregon Department of Transportation said it was watching river levels because the weather service warned that most rivers will crest overnight.