Hunter killed as big storm pounds Oregon


Associated Press

Posted on November 20, 2012 at 6:03 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A fierce storm that pummeled Oregon with heavy rain and strong winds Monday was being blamed for the death of a Seattle elk hunter in Tillamook County and a serious injury to a Portland police officer.

The turbulent weather also stranded a woman at a flooded campsite in Clackamas County and tore off the roof a restaurant in Newport.

The storm knocked out electricity to as many as 24,000 customers, Pacific Power said. By Monday evening, about 8,000 were still in the dark, mainly in Clatsop, Lincoln and Coos counties.

The storm wasn't confined to the Oregon coast and Willamette Valley. Winds gusting to 60 mph also downed trees, branches and power lines in Central Oregon, KTVZ-TV in Bend reported.

The elk hunter, 52-year-old Nathan Christensen of Seattle, died shortly before 7 a.m. when a fir tree crashed onto his tent near Nehalem, said Chief Perry Sherbaugh of Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue.

Two hunters in an adjacent camp heard the tree snap and saw it lying across the tent. They cut it away in an attempt to rescue the man, to no avail.

"They initially called it in as one person trapped in the tent," Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long said. "But it killed him instantly."

A Portland police officer was seriously injured when a tree fell while he was doing all-terrain vehicle training. Sgt. Pete Simpson said the accident on Hayden Island in the Columbia River appeared to be weather-related.

Meanwhile, a woman who identified herself as Susan Seale and said she was homeless called 911 Monday afternoon to report that her Clackamas campsite was surrounded by rising water. Rescuers used a small boat to rescue Seale and her dog, Clackamas County sheriff's Sgt. Adam Phillips said.

Fallen trees caused havoc along the coast.

Four Seaside firefighters narrowly avoided injury when a tree fell on their fire truck. Fire Chief Joey Daniels said the four had gone to U.S. Highway 26 to help clear a tree. When they got back into the truck, they saw another one starting to fall.

"They all opened their doors and jumped out," Daniels said.

The truck was destroyed, the chief said, and the department is still totaling the damage to the equipment inside the vehicle. Elsewhere, a Beaverton teacher was not hurt when a 50-foot tree fell on her car. Kristie Russell told KGW-TV she didn't have time to avoid the falling tree, so she held on tight and hoped for the best.

Wind gusts hit 101 mph atop the Astoria-Megler bridge across the Columbia River. A commercial truck crossing that bridge tipped over, causing a major traffic headache. The strong winds prevented crews from removing the truck for hours.

Other strong gusts on the coast included 98 mph at Yaquina Head, 85 mph at Lincoln City and 80 mph at Newport, the National Weather Service reported.

The wind gusts destroyed a barn and partially tore the roof from a mobile home in Tillamook County, said Gordon McCraw, the emergency management director. In Newport, the wind peeled back a restaurant's roof.

Farther inland, winds hit 60 mph at Newberg and 51 mph at the McMinnville Airport.

Lincoln City saw 3.55 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending Monday evening, while 2.13 inches fell at the Portland airport and 2.08 inches in Salem. The Portland suburb of Hillsboro reported 3.42 inches, the Weather Service said.

Grand Ronde in the Oregon Coast range reported 6.10 inches in 24 hours.

The worst of the weather has passed, a forecaster said late Monday.

"The really heavy rain we saw today, that's over," said Weather Service meteorologist Clinton Rockey in Portland. "We'll see a couple of fronts over the next couple days, but not anything like we saw the last 24 hours."

Thanksgiving Day could bring a little break in the rain, Rockey added.

Weather Service meteorologist Kirsten Elson said powerful storms are not uncommon even as early as November. The storms, however, generally include either heavy winds or drenching rains, not both.

"Hopefully this will give everybody a heads up that we're back into the fall and winter season," Elson said. "And here we go."