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Rain, floods prompt Coast Guard rescues in Pacific Northwest

Only the top part of a firetruck is visible as it is partially submerged in a flooded river.
Sgt. Jack Dunteman
Lincoln County Sheriff's Department
In this photo provided by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, a fire engine is surrounded by rising waters in Otis, Ore., Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard has used two helicopters to rescue about 50 people from rising waters at an RV park on the Oregon Coast Friday as heavy rains in the Pacific Northwest prompted warnings of floods and landslides. (Sgt. Jack Dunteman/Lincoln County Sheriff's Department via AP)

The U.S. Coast Guard used two helicopters to rescue campers from rising waters at an RV park on the Oregon Coast Friday, mudslides shut down roads and a woman was plucked from a swollen river as a second day of heavy rains and flooding pummeled the Pacific Northwest.

Authorities issued flood watches along Oregon's coast and warned of the possibility of dangerous mudslides in areas that burned in last summer's devastating wildfires. At the RV park about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Portland, Coast Guard teams said they rescued a total of 20 people and three dogs with the help of local authorities. Thirty campers decided to stay and declined rescue, the agency said.

Aerial photos showed the entire RV park flooded with deep brown water and campers sitting amid the mess. In some areas of the park, water had risen to 4 feet (1.2 meters). In nearby Otis, another RV park was also flooded and a private fire engine that sits permanently at the town limits to welcome visitors had water halfway up its doors.

Russ Hiner, who was camping at the park, posted on Facebook that he awoke to someone driving around the park and honking a warning shortly after 6 a.m.

“Looking out the fogged up windows and see someone with a flashlight running around. They come and bang on the door, “The park is FLOODING! Everyone out,'” he wrote on Facebook. “Looks like there’s six or 7 inches of standing water underneath us.”

The Neskowin campground is tucked between two forks of Neskowin Creek and is about 7 miles (11 kilometers) north of Otis, a tiny coastal community that was devastated by a wind-driven wildfire just over a year ago.

“We are okay for now ... but the rain in still coming,” said Melynda Small, who lost her home to the fire in September 2020 and is worried about mudslides in the burn area.

Forecasters said the storms are being caused by an atmospheric river, known as the Pineapple Express. Rain was expected to remain heavy in Oregon and Washington through Friday night. Precipitation may ease some Saturday but more rain is expected Saturday night through next week.

In Oregon, the National Weather Service issued flood watches in several coastal counties and warned that heavy rains raised the risk of mudslides and debris flows in areas recently burned by wildfires.

More than 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain fell in some areas in the western part of the state in a 24-hour period Thursday and heavy rains were expected to continue through Friday evening, the National Weather Service in Portland said. Astoria, in the state’s far northwest corner, set a new record for rainfall Thursday with just over 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain, the most since the previous record for the date set 70 years ago.

Standing water in the roadways made driving treacherous across the Portland metropolitan area and a woman was rescued from the swollen Santiam River on Thursday after her encampment along the river banks was flooded.

In Washington, advisories were issued for at least a half-dozen rivers in the western part of the state.

Landslides were reported on the coast, in southwest Oregon near the town of Elkton and along the Columbia River Highway east of Portland.

The storm also caused a power outage that closed several schools and district offices in a Portland suburb.

The entrance to Tolt MacDonald Park is filled with water. A sign for the park is visible.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press
An entrance to Tolt MacDonald Park is shown under water, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, as rain falls near Carnation, Wash. Forecasters said the storms are being caused by an atmospheric river, known as the Pineapple Express and rain was expected to remain heavy in Oregon and Washington through Friday night.

Gillian Flaccus is a Portland-based reporter and video journalist for The Associated Press.