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.
Man struck by 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.
River changed course
The river appeared to have changed course when it washed out the road, also knocking out power to homes in the area.
KGW-TV reported that homes in the area are mostly rental properties and nearly all of them had been rented for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
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.
“There’s a lot of water out there, but it’s mostly staying in the banks,” said Megan Woodhead, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Medford.
The rains in Oregon were pushing some rivers and streams over their banks at a time when many waterways were rising because of warming temperatures and melting snow, with some rivers reaching flood stage and more were expected to rise above that level.
“This was not one of the most significant floods that we’ve had, but slightly above what we’d classify as a nuisance flood,” Gordon McCraw, Tillamook County Emergency Management director, told The Associated Press.
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.
“Our crews really scrambled,” said Brad Wurfel, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman. “We had about everybody in the area working on it because there are no good detours available in the area.”
Forecasters said drier and cooler weather should reach the region today.