Still-soggy Pacific Northwest struck by early arriving snowstorm packing 100-mph gusts

Monday, November 13th 2006, 11:46 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) _ Snowfall from an early season storm forced road closures and knocked out power to thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest, days after warm-weather rainstorms caused major flooding in the region.

The latest storm, which hit the coast Sunday and moved inland, left a foot of snow in parts of the Cascades and buffeted much of the region with high winds. Authorities closed two mountain passes east of Mount Rainier until spring because of the threat of avalanches, the earliest such closure for one of the passes in 12 years.

``Once it gets to a point where it's too dangerous for our own maintenance crews to clear the roadway, we go ahead and close it,'' said Mike Westbay, a Washington Transportation Department spokesman.

Along the Oregon coast, gusts topping 100 mph helped knock out power to at least 65,000 customers late Sunday and early Monday, though most had it been restored by midmorning.

One road to the coast was blocked by more than 100 trees felled by the winds and rain-saturated soil, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

Organizers canceled the annual Head of the Lake Regatta on Sunday after winds churned up 5-foot swells in the starting area, said Ben Porter, director of the Seattle-area race.

Flooding from last week's rainstorms killed at least three people, smashed rainfall records and damaged hundreds of homes, authorities said.