In southwest Washington, landslides closed Interstate 5 northbound and left hundreds of households stranded along the Kalama River.
Parts of downtown Kalama, Washington, were still under a foot or more of water Wednesday morning, with flooding in the library, City Hall and several businesses along the town’s main drag.
“Just picking up after the disaster,” said Travis Vanskike, a crewman with the city’s public works department who helped load up sandbags after working through a sleepless night.
Vanskike said he’s seen a lot of damage.
“We’re just trying to get this cleaned up,” he said. “We’re going to throw these into sandbags and I think we’re going to build another barrier here with sandbags just in case it rains again.”
Since Monday, heavy rains and high winds have rattled the region.
According to the National Weather Service, Portland and Kalama have each received more than 5 inches of rain. Vancouver saw closer to 6 inches.
Late Tuesday night, Cowlitz County declared a state of emergency, meaning officials aren’t sure they have enough resources to respond to reports of flooding, landslides and washed-out roads. Gov. Jay Inslee followed with a statewide emergency declaration Wednesday.
More than 800 households are stuck behind an unknown number of landslides along a 22-mile stretch of the Kalama River.
Cowlitz County Commissioner Joe Gardner said the county’s office of emergency management has been in touch with some of the stranded residents.
“The county has an engineer and multiple crews out responding to these slides,” he said. “They’ll be working to reopen the roadway and will be notifying the citizens out there as soon as possible.”
Early Wednesday morning, a woman in southeast Portland died after a tree fell on her house. Another person in Cowlitz County suffered minor injuries after a tree fell on a garage.
Whitey Thames lives in a now-flooded RV park along the Kalama River. A friend pulled his trailer to higher ground just in time.
“It’s a mess,” said Thames, who evacuated last night after the river started to flood the campground.
“I left because I could see I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “But a buddy of mine was parked over there and his truck was rigged up pull a trailer so he pulled out mine with his. So I lucked out that way.”
Driving up and down the Oregon coast was nearly impossible. High water and landslides caused more than 75 road closures, including several sections of Highway 101.
Tillamook County declared an emergency to seek funding for repairs. Parts of the county have received up to 18 inches of rain this week.
“There’s just a lot of damage out there that needs to be dealt with. It’s going to be in the millions of dollars,” said County Commissioner Tim Josi.
The city of Wheeler is without water after damage to a pipe. Flood damage and landslides have also stranded people in Cape Meares.
The Tillamook County sheriff said about 30 people were evacuated before the flooding.
Officials urged people not to drive through barricades. Around Tillamook County, several cars have been stranded, which turned out to be a good thing for Don Burden’s business. He runs a tow company in Tillamook.
“I’m always towing something, pulling people out of water,” Burden said. “We (were) up till 4 o’clock this morning. We had a milk truck trailer roll over down the road because it couldn’t see the road, it got in a ditch and flipped over.”
The storms closed other business along the coast.
Mike Blair owns a construction company in Tillamook. He was spotted guiding a kayak down Front Street.
“There’s nothing better to do and we saw this,” he said.
He’s lived in Tillamook for 37 years. It’s not his first time boating through town.
“In ‘96 we did a jet ski down 101,” Blair said.
In February 1996, the region experienced widespread floods when between 6 and 11 inches of rain fell just a matter of days.
The National Weather Service says this flood is coming to a close. Most of the rivers in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington are receding.
More rain is on the way, but forecasters say they don’t anticipate the same intensity and are less concerned about flooding.