Storm wreaks havoc on Pacific County

Pacific County rivers swelled to near flood stage Monday and U.S. Highway 101 was blocked in two places as the first major storm of the season blew through with more than 5 inches of rain and wind speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Near Naselle, a mudslide on Highway 101 sent a tree crashing onto a State Patrol trooper’s car, sparking a fire and temporarily blocking the highway Monday. The fire reportedly caused ammunition in the trooper’s car to start exploding.

The trooper was out of his car helping another driver when the mudslide set off a chain reaction and another car crashed into the patrol car, said spokesman Russ Winger. The trooper was not injured, Winger said, and the patrol was still assessing the damage.

Because of high winds and a traffic accident, the state Department of Transportation shut down the Astoria-Megler Bridge and Highway 101 across the Columbia River into Oregon from about 10 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Monday. The bridge closed after a semi-truck tipped over at the top of the span.

The highest recorded wind speed was 114 mph at 10:15 Monday morning at a Bonneville Power Administration wind monitor on Radar Ridge above Naselle.

The Chinook Observer reported wind speeds ranged from the high 80s to low 100s for about four hours Monday, before dropping into the 50s and 60s after 1 p.m.

Pacific County Department of Emergency Management officials said 3-5 inches of rain dropped on the Willapa Hills since Sunday afternoon. Rivers are expected to crest today v .

The Weather Service also issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for most of the Lower Columbia area, including Pacific, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum counties.

For the Willapa River, a flood warning was in effect from midday Monday until Tuesday morning. The river rose above flood stage about 3 p.m. Monday and crested about 22 feet by 10 p.m.

Historically, numerous roads are flooded with deep and swiftly moving water, including Heckard Road and U.S. Highway 101, said a warning from Pacific County Emergency Management.

But Emergency Management Deputy Director Denise Rowlett said the county so far escaped any major damage.

“At this point we’ve received no reports of damage other than fallen trees and vehicular damage,” Rowlett said. “Our advice to residents has been to restrict travel if possible.”

The Naselle River also was under a flood warning and crested at 16.6 feet about 5 p.m. Monday.

“Expect minor flooding causing mainly pasture land flooding at this point. Some roads may have water over them in spots,” Emergency Management warned for the Naselle area.