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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Northwest Storm Kills 1, Causes Landslide And Power Outages

SPOKANE, Washington—A powerful wind storm rolled through the Pacific Northwest, killing one person and leaving a trail of damage—including a highway shut down after a landslide and a tractor-trailer that was nearly blown off a bridge. More than 500,000 people lost power.

The death happened in Spokane, when a woman in her 40s died after a tree fell on her car and trapped her inside, city Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said. And in Oregon, one person was missing who authorities believed was swept away in a vehicle after a landslide hit Interstate 84, authorities said.

Winds reached gusts 50 to 70 mph in parts of the Puget Sound region as the storm blew through on the tail end of several inches of rain that left the ground saturated and conditions ripe for trees to fall, KOMO-TV reported.

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As of early Wednesday, Seattle had received 20 percent of its normal annual rainfall, according to the National Weather Service.

High winds blew down trees across the greater Spokane region. Avista, a Spokane-based utility, reported that more than 70,000 customers were without power Wednesday morning. About 430,000 customers elsewhere in Washington state and in Oregon also lost electrical service, officials said.

The city’s public schools were closed for in-person and virtual learning Wednesday morning, and Eastern Washington University also cancelled both in-person and online classes.

In Oregon, residents of the small community of Dodson were told to evacuate after the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning Wednesday morning, KOIN-TV reported.

A ponderosa pine is uprooted at a homeowner’s sidewalk after a windstorm in Spokane, Wash. on Jan. 13, 2021. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review via AP)

The weather service told residents to call friends in the area to wake them up and tweeted that the situation has been “deemed too dangerous to send in rescue crews.”

Near Dodson, part of Interstate 84 was closed after the landslide spilled onto the freeway before dawn.

The missing person was believed to have been driving a car that was swept away in the debris flow, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

The landslide was estimated to be 10 feet deep in some areas and too dangerous for search and rescue crews. Heavy machinery was being brought in to clear the debris, officials said.

Several rivers began overflowing their banks in Oregon, and a tractor-trailer in Washington state blew over amid heavy wind gusts as it attempted to travel over the Deception Pass Bridge north of Seattle, officials said. Part of the truck was left dangling over the edge of the bridge, but the driver escaped unharmed.

“I just passed the middle of the bridge and a gust of … I don’t know how bad … just picked up my trailer and my truck and just pushed it against the guard rail,” trucker Jeff Myles told KOMO NewsRadio. “I slammed on my brakes, and I just laid over the guard rail. It tilted about 3 feet each way.”

Myles said his cab was leaning over the edge of the bridge, and he couldn’t open his door.

“I could look down at the water (out my window), so I wasn’t going to open THAT door,” he said.

Multiple school districts in Oregon were also closed for online learning or significantly delayed because of internet outages that prevented students from logging on to class.

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