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Heavy rains cause flooding, mudslides across the West Coast
February 9, 2015 / 9:37 PM / 3 years ago

Heavy rains cause flooding, mudslides across the West Coast

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A powerful Pacific storm system that drenched California was moving across the Pacific Northwest on Monday, as crews in Oregon and Washington worked to clear flooded roads and railroad tracks blocked by mudslides.

The storm system, called the Pineapple Express because it gathers moisture as it moves across the Pacific Ocean from near Hawaii, had dropped up to 13 inches of rain since Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

“This is the last piece of energy that’s rotating with this system that went through California and Oregon and is moving through Washington now,” said Jim Hayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Heavy rain has spurred mudslides and flooding across the region.

In Washington, two mudslides on Saturday covered railroad tracks in different parts of the state, shutting down Amtrak service between Seattle and the suburb of Everett, and between Kelso and Portland, Oregon, the passenger railroad said. Service was expected to resume on Monday.

In Brinnon, west of Seattle, mudslides forced the evacuation of several homes, while other residences were inundated after the Duckabush River flooded, Jefferson County officials said.

The rain and accompanying wind gusts knocked out power to about 2,000 people around the San Francisco-area early on Monday, Pacific Gas and Electric said. After a powerful storm on Friday, 60,000 people temporarily lost power.

More than 13 inches of rain had fallen on Petrolia, California, on the northern coast, and 12.43 inches on Hoodsport, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula.

The precipitation was welcomed in California, which is experiencing its worst drought on record, but was not drastically increasing reservoir totals because much of the rainwater was running off, Hayes said.

“What they want is to build the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range, because that’s a slow release of the moisture once it melts in the spring,” Hayes said.

Several landslides were reported across Oregon, and flooding forced some major road closures over the weekend, including 14 miles of Highway 66 near Ashland.

The lack of snow, along with warm rains from the Pineapple Express system, has also taken a bite out of the ski industry in the Pacific Northwest, with some resorts closing runs and reducing prices to attract business, the Seattle Times reported.

Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Peter Cooney

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