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Heavy Rain Sets Off Landslides Around Region

Randy Hoodenpyl

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Heavy rains and high winds are making it hard to get around parts of western Washington and northwest Oregon this afternoon. Flood watches and warnings are in effect across a wide area of the Northwest. At least half a dozen mudslides have blocked highways and rail lines since this morning .

The freight train of storms pummeling the Northwest has saturated soils. Some places are not getting enough time between downpours for the water to drain off. Oregon's Department of Geology put all of western Oregon on notice for increased potential of landslides.

In Washington state, chief hazards geologist Tim Walsh is testing a web-based landslide hazard alert system, now operative at a county-by-county level.

"We have four storm seasons worth of validation data going into this," Walsh says. "We would certainly like to have a lot more than that before we have high confidence that it will be able to pin point areas of specific concern."

Credit Washington State Patrol
In SW Washington's Pacific County, a state trooper's car was struck by a tree at the scene of a mudslide on SR 101 on Monday. Then another vehicle struck the patrol car and both caught fire. Trooper and motorist okay.

Walsh says homes and roads beneath steep slopes, near the mouths of canyons or downhill from this summer's wildfires are at risk in weather like this. If that describes you, it's a good idea to plan how to evacuate on short notice.

High water and rock slides are blocking Highway 101 in several places between Lincoln City and Astoria, Oregon. Mud and rockslides are also blocking lanes in Washington's Pacific County, Mason County and King County.

Mudslides have blocked the rails between Seattle and Everett in at least three places. A rock slide onto State Highway 31 in northeast Washington's Pend d'Oreille County earlier Monday has been cleared.

On the Web:

Washington landslide hazard map (beta) (Washington DNR)

Current Washington landslides (Washington DNR)

Report a landslide in Washington (Washington DNR)

Oregon landslide hazards and tip sheets (Oregon Department of Geology)

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.