Two women missing in Ore. flooding
By TIM FOUGHT
The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — Two women last seen walking along a wave-battered beach were missing Wednesday in the wake of a storm that drenched the Pacific Northwest, smashing rainfall records and threatening hundreds of homes.
The Pineapple Express storm, named for its origin over the warm Pacific Ocean, had abated Wednesday after sending rivers over their banks Monday and Tuesday, killing at least two and causing millions of dollars in damage.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski declared an emergency in coastal Tillamook County, where about 100 people were evacuated because of rising water.
In nearby Gleneden Beach, 15 to 20 dump trucks hauled gravel to shore up the foundations of three houses whose foundations were threatened by erosion.
It was also in Gleneden Beach where authorities launched a search for a 78-year-old woman and her daughter-in-law, reported missing Tuesday afternoon when they did not return from a walk.
Surf, wind and tide were all high at the time Elma Benefiel, of Beaverton, and daughter-in-law Jan Benefiel, 61, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, were last seen. The Coast Guard, tracking dogs and a helicopter joined in the search.
The search was called off at midnight because of the rough weather but was to resume during the day Wednesday, the Lincoln County sheriff's office said in a statement.
In Washington state, the death toll rose to at least two Tuesday when a pickup truck driver ignored road closure signs and was swept into the Cowlitz River east of Randle, Lewis County Sheriff's Commander Steve Aust told The Seattle Times. A 20-year-old elk hunter died Monday when his truck was swept into the same river.
Some highways and numerous local roads were closed Wednesday because of high water, mud and rock slides or flood damage. A section of Interstate 5 southwest of Seattle was reopened early Wednesday after being closed for about nine hours because of high water.
In Snohomish, about 25 miles north of Seattle, floodwater seeped into the municipal sewage treatment plant and damaged a diversion dam on the Pilchuck River. Larry Bauman, town planner, said countywide damage would likely exceed the $5 million caused by flooding in 2003.
"This is a catastrophic event," Bauman said.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire had declared an emergency for 18 counties on Monday, authorizing the National Guard and the Emergency Management Division to offer assistance. Helicopters and hovercraft were put to work making rescues.
Rainfall records were set Monday across western Washington, including 8.22 inches at Stampede Pass, which broke an all-time record for a 24-hour period there of 7.29 inches, set on Nov. 19, 1962. Olympia had a record for the date at 4.31 inches.
The storm dumped up to 15 inches on Oregon by Tuesday, mostly along the coast.
"It's something that happens once every 10 years," said weather service hydrologist Brent Bower.
At least one house was swept away and nearly 300 homes and cabins were threatened when the Cowlitz River rose out of its banks and changed course near Packwood, Wash., south of Mount Rainier, said sheriff's deputy Stacy Brown.
Some people gathered at Packwood's Four Square Church after being told their homes were imperiled.
"I don't think anybody expected it to rise as fast as it did _ like a boiling pot of chocolate milk," church youth leader Amber Low said Tuesday. "It was just logs and root wads. It wasn't very pretty."
With Election Day at hand Tuesday, authorities did their best to cope. In Oregon's Clatsop County, a dump truck was sent to fetch 300 ballots from Cannon Beach after high water blocked highway U.S. 101 to smaller vehicles.
"That was very helpful," said County Clerk Nicole Williams.
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