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Thousands without power as another storm brings heavy rain and high winds to much of Oregon

Crews at Oregon's Silver Falls State Park work to cleared downed trees on Tuesday.
Courtesy of Oregon State Parks
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Crews at Oregon's Silver Falls State Park work to cleared downed trees on Tuesday.

Monster waves, strong winds and high tides battered much of the Oregon and Washington coasts on Tuesday. The storm arrived Monday night, knocking down trees and power lines across Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Thirty-foot waves are expected to break along the entire Oregon Coast, the National Weather Service said, with wave heights possibly topping 40 feet on the north coast. A high wind warning is also in effect for much of the coast, with gusts expected to reach 80 mph, according to the NWS. In the Portland metro area, wind gusts of 60 mph downed powered lines and felled trees, including near the Portland Art Museum downtown.

“In situations like this, we recommend that people stay off the beach entirely,” said Brian Nieuwenhuis, a meteorologist with the NWS Medford office. “I’d be very concerned about anybody going out on the beach and very concerned about any infrastructure located close to the surf zone.”

A motorist was killed when a tree fell and struck their vehicle while driving on Highway 26, KATU reported, citing Oregon State Police. OSP told the news outlet they were “waiting for the scene to be made safer before continuing the investigation since other trees in the area appear to be a hazard as well.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Oregon led the country as the state with the highest number of reported power outages — with more than 160,000 customers affected — according to online tracker PowerOutage.

Compared to other utility companies, Portland General Electric reported the most outages, with more than 104,000 customers affected as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Utility company Pacific Power said that over 250 field and support personnel, including service crews from out of state, were working to assess and repair damage caused by the strong winds.

Due to high winds, all MAX trains in the Portland area are traveling no faster than 30 mph Tuesday, causing delays. Visit trimet.org/alerts for more info.

Meteorologists said this front is the “most robust winter low-pressure system” so far this season, bringing a band of warm air through the region.

The heavy rain has led to a flood warning along the Grays River in Washington. Several other coastal streams and rivers are rapidly rising. At the same time in the central Columbia River Gorge, freezing rain is forming.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for portions of northwest Oregon, including the Coast Range of Northwest Oregon and the North Oregon Coast. The watches are in effect through late Tuesday night. Heavy rain may result in landslides in areas of steep terrain, as well as debris flows in and near burned areas from recent wildfires. Find the latest information here.

Coastal flooding and high wind advisories were also in effect for much of western Washington state.

A record high tide of 18.4 feet submerged parts of the state capital of Olympia, which swept marine life into the city’s streets, officials said.

“Jellyfish washed over the shoreline and into our streets,” said Olympia Water Resources Director Eric Christensen. “There was a woman who was kind enough to rescue them and put them back into Budd Inlet.”

Other areas around Puget Sound — including parts of Seattle and the northwest corner of the state — also saw flooding, which trapped cars and impacted buildings.

About 35,000 people in Washington state were affected by power outages Tuesday afternoon, mostly in the southwestern part of the state, according to PowerOutage.

The weather conditions forced the full or partial closure of several Oregon state parks at a time when whale watchers and holiday tourists typically flock to the coast.

Oregon State Parks announced emergency closures for Ecola and Cape Meares because of high winds and the potential for falling trees. The day-use area at Sunset Bay State Park near Coos Bay was closed because of extreme high tides and flooding.

Cape Meares is one of 17 sites hosting Oregon’s Whale Watch Week, which is returning in-person this year for the first time since the pandemic. During the event, which starts Wednesday and lasts through Sunday, volunteers help visitors spot gray whales during their annual migration south.

The park anticipates reopening on Wednesday, but people are advised to visit later in the week if possible, said Oregon State Parks spokesperson Stefanie Knowlton.

“If there’s anything safety-wise for the locations that are listed for Whale Watch and surrounding areas, then we’ll reevaluate and let visitors know,” she said.

The agency has urged people planning to visit Silver Falls State Park or Cape Lookout State Park to postpone their trips. The power is out in both parks, and all trailheads are closed at Silver Falls because of high winds and multiple downed trees, according to the agency.

The blustery conditions have exacerbated efforts of people trying to get home after the holidays. People who are flying out of the Portland International Airport continue to see delays because of winter weather across the country. PDX officials have advised travelers to check their flight status regularly. Many travelers had their plans pushed back over the holiday weekend after ice and snow swept across the Northwest and much of the nation.

According to the weather service, a second weather front will roll into the region Wednesday evening, moving southward toward the coastline. The rain may not be as heavy but officials will be watching the water level on the region’s streams and rivers. With the freezing level hovering around 3,000 to 4,000 feet, people can expect snow in the Cascades.

Material from the Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

OPB Staff