Elaine Thompson, Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. — People in the Pacific Northwest faced difficult travel conditions and worries about flood waters Thursday after a windy winter storm dropped more than a foot of snow in some places, causing school closures, knocking out power to thousands and leaving hundreds of accidents in its wake.
Rising water from heavy rains swept a car carrying at least two people into an overflowing creek in the Willamette Valley community of Albany, Ore. The two people escaped and authorities searched for others who might have been in the car, fire officials said. Early reports indicated that a child was missing but fire officials said there were too many conflicting accounts be sure. A search was suspended until daylight.
The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for several Oregon rivers and several roads were closed because of flooding in Salem.
Nearly a foot of new snow fell in Olympia, Wash., where 11 inches was measured at the airport Wednesday. The record is 14.2 inches on Jan. 24, 1972.
Lewis County, south of Olympia, had the highest snowfall amounts, ranging from 12 to 17 inches.
"It's unusual to get this much snow for western Washington," said Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Emergency management officials warned that an icy Thursday morning commute was the next likely challenge for western Washington drivers.
Sub-freezing temperatures were the rule late Wednesday. Light freezing drizzle fell in Seattle and Tacoma.
Thursday's forecast was for a mix of snow and rain, and the Weather Service warned that urban and small stream flooding was possible Friday, when another storm was expected to hit the state. Rain and temperatures in the 40s would start melting snow on the ground.
Forecasters warned that heavy rain combined with snow melt could lead to some Washington river flooding, especially in the Chehalis River Basin, an area that has been hit by significant floods in recent years.
Officials in Lewis County said they didn't yet have concerns about flooding on the Chehalis River, but were monitoring the amount of snow they receive.
More than 40,000 Western Washington electrical customers lost power at least temporarily late Wednesday, in many cases as icy, snow-laden tree limbs drooped or fell onto power lines. Many of the outages were quickly restored.
Washington residents had plenty of warning as snow showers started over the weekend.
Seattle and many other school districts canceled Wednesday classes in advance. Alaska Airlines announced late Tuesday that it canceled 38 flights into and out of Seattle and Portland, Ore.
Washington State University announced it was cancelling all classes Thursday at its Pullman campus in southeastern Washington, where more snow was expected. The University of Washington cancelled Thursday classes at three campuses, including Seattle.
Seattle schools were also closed again for Thursday, as were schools in Bellingham in northwest Washington, and in southeast Washington's Pasco, Kennewick and Richland.
As of Wednesday night, the Washington State Patrol had responded to 261 collisions in the preceding 21 hours, Trooper Guy Gill said. No fatalities were reported.
"I saw a guy in my rear mirror," Gill said earlier. "I saw headlights and taillights and headlights and taillights again as he spun around off the road."
In Oregon, high winds hammered parts of the coast and caused power outages that initially affected tens of thousands of customers, with reports of gusts as high as 113 mph. There were no immediate reports of serious damage.
At the Capitol in Washington state, it was business as usual Wednesday.
- Tornado relief spurs LDS Church, Layton's...
- Fire chief says search almost complete in...
- Photo gallery: Tornado rips Oklahoma suburb
- Teachers saved many lives during Oklahoma...
- Authorities: Man questioned in Boston bombing...
- One block: How neighbors saw twister's deadly...
- IRS official Lerner invokes Fifth Amendment...
- 'We will rebuild': Tornado toll at 24;...
- Mitt Romney talks IRS, AP records,... 65
- Journalists criticize Obama... 38
- Associated Press CEO calls records... 23
- White House insists Obama was not... 22
- Former IRS chief to Congress: Can't say... 20
- More Obama aides knew IRS targeted... 19
- IRS official Lerner invokes Fifth... 19
- Supreme Court to weigh in on... 17