Third Death Confirmed After Record Rain in Pacific Northwest

November 10, 2006

The body of a 78-year-old woman who disappeared on a storm-battered beach was found, the third confirmed death from storms in the Pacific Northwest that smashed rainfall records and damaged hundreds of homes, authorities said.

The Pineapple Express storm, named for its origin over the warm Pacific Ocean, abated Wednesday after sending rivers over their banks Monday and Tuesday, causing millions of dollars (euros) in damage.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski declared an emergency in coastal Tillamook County, where about 100 people were evacuated because of rising water.

Elma Benefiel and her daughter-in-law were last seen walking near Gleneden Beach, Oregon, on Tuesday. Lt. Vicky Ryan of the Depoe Bay Fire District said she saw the women and “cautioned them to not go out on the beach because of the high water.”

They apparently moved to another stretch of beach, she said. The body was found on a spit off the beach, Ryan said. A search was continuing for her daughter-in-law.

Two deaths were reported in Washington — a hunter whose pickup truck was swept into the Cowlitz River and a man whose vehicle was swept into the same river after he ignored road closure signs. The first body was recovered late Monday, and the second early Wednesday.

Some highways and numerous local roads were closed Wednesday because of high water, mud and rock slides or flood damage.

Authorities focused on finding up to 1,000 hunters who rode out the slow-moving rainstorm and remained on the hillsides between Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, said Gene Seiber, chief deputy for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

“Many up there are just waiting it out,” Seiber said. “The rescue guys in the air said the guys are just sitting around campfires, waving at the plane. They’re fine now, but eventually they’re going to come down and realize they can’t get out.”

While river levels were dropping, some were still at flood stage, with recovery and damage assessment still hours or even days away.

Rainfall records were set Monday across western Washington, including 8.22 inches (20.88 centimeters) at Stampede Pass, which broke an all-time record for a 24-hour period there of 7.29 inches (18.52 centimeters).

The storm dumped up to 15 inches (38.1 centimeters) on Oregon by Tuesday, mostly along the coast.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.