Floods force people to evacuate

PORTLAND, Ore. – National Guard troops evacuated residents in a flooded town yesterday and tens of thousands of residents remained without power after back-to-back storms pounded the Pacific Northwest, killing five people.

Troops with the Oregon Air National Guard used inflatable rafts to evacuate flooded residents in Vernonia, a mountain timber town on the Nehalem River, about 35 miles northwest of Portland.

“They’re moving down the streets, and through the backyards,” said Maj. Mike Braibish, spokesman for the National Guard.

Vernonia, which has about 2,200 residents, had been largely cut off by landslides that blocked roads into the community, but Guard trucks with high clearance were able to get in late Monday and more were being sent, Braibish said.

Still, communications were difficult. “There are no phone lines or land lines available in Vernonia,” said Hyla Ridenour, spokeswoman for Columbia River Fire and Rescue in nearby St. Helens.

The storm that hit Monday smacked the region with hurricane-force winds and several inches of rain, and was blamed for five deaths in Oregon and Washington state. It came only a day after another severe system moved through Sunday.

Yesterday, the second system had moved on to the Upper Plains and Midwest, where it was predicted to bring snow. In North Dakota, the National Weather Service said parts of the state could get up to 9 inches.