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Wind, rain, topple trucks, kill 1 in Pacific Northwest

Strong winds overturned large commercial trucks on two highways Monday. One tractor-trailer tipped over while crossing the Astoria-Megler Bridge that carries U.S. 101 across the Columbia River.

By DOUG ESSER
The Associated Press

11/20/2012

SEATTLE — Residents in Washington and Oregon braced for more wet weather after a fierce storm swamped streets, toppled trees and large trucks, cut power to nearly 50,000 residents, and caused at least one death.

Strong winds overturned large commercial trucks on two highways Monday. One tractor-trailer tipped over while crossing the Astoria-Megler Bridge that carries U.S. 101 across the Columbia River. That caused a lengthy traffic headache.

Another semi was blown onto its side in the middle of the Chehalis River Bridge in Aberdeen, on the Washington coast, Aberdeen police said.

Thanksgiving should be mainly dry in the Northwest, the National Weather Service said, but drivers may encounter winter driving conditions in mountain passes on their way home over the weekend.

Flood warnings were issued for a handful of western Washington rivers, with moderate flooding expected Tuesday along the Chehalis River in the Centralia area. Residents there were told where to find sandbags and were directed to move any endangered livestock to higher ground.

Nearly 2 inches of rain fell in six hours Monday in one Seattle neighborhood — a total that Seattle Public Utilities meteorologist James Rufo-Hill called "extraordinary."

The rain caused widespread reports of flooded roads and highways, some mudslides and residential flooding, and even sewage overflows in parts of Seattle and Everett. Several blocks of downtown streets were briefly flooded in Port Orchard, west of Seattle.

BNSF Railways imposed a 48-hour moratorium on passenger and commuter trains travel between Everett and Seattle, starting around noon Monday, after at least 10 mudslides affected the tracks, spokesman Gus Melonas said.

Wet weather was expected to continue through the week, but National Weather Service meteorologist Jay Neher in Seattle said Monday night that the "heavy rain is over."

On Oregon's northwest coast, a hunter was killed Monday morning when a tree crashed on his tent near Nehalem. Two hunters in an adjacent camp heard the tree snap as gusts reached more than 70 mph and saw it lying across the tent. They cut it away in an attempt to rescue the man, to no avail.

Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long identified the hunter as Nathan Christensen, 52, of Seattle.

A Portland police officer was seriously injured during all-terrain vehicle training when a tree fell. Sgt. Pete Simpson said the accident on Hayden Island in the Columbia River appeared to be weather-related.

In southwest Washington, a Washington State Patrol car and another vehicle were struck by a tree carried by a mudslide on U.S. Highway 101 near Naselle.

The patrol car started burning, and the trooper had to break a window to crawl to safety. The trooper was unhurt, and the female driver of the other vehicle was OK except for neck pain. Both vehicles were destroyed by the fire.

In Washington, peak storm gusts reached 101 mph on the Megler bridge linking Oregon and Washington and 61 mph at Hoquiam on the Washington coast. They hit 114 mph on isolated Naselle Ridge in the mountains of southwest Washington, the Weather Service reported.

On the Oregon coast, strong gusts included 98 mph at Yaquina Head, 85 mph at Lincoln City and 80 mph at Newport, the Weather Service said. In Newport, the wind peeled back the roof of a restaurant.

The Weather Service reported 24-hour Washington rainfall totals as of Monday evening that included 4.09 inches in Bremerton, west of Seattle; 2.97 inches at Hoquiam on the Washington coast; and 6 inches at Cushman Dam on the Olympic Peninsula.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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