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Northwest braces for more rain after day of drama

Rescue workers search for residents needing assistance in flooded mobile home park in Puyallup, Washington on December 9, 2015

KIRO-TV

FALL CITY, Wash. -- While much of the Pacific Northwest got a respite Wednesday from rains that have pummeled the region for days, mudslides and flooding rivers triggered multiple rescues and claimed the life of a woman after her car became submerged northwest of Portland, Oregon.

Even as residents throughout western Washington and Oregon were assessing damage from the heavy rains and strong winds, forecasters said more rain was on the way Thursday and through the weekend.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency, directing the Washington Military Department to coordinate state response activities.

Thousands of homes and businesses were without power and downed trees were strewn across the Puget Sound region, reports CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV.

Farther east, officials in northwestern Montana declared a state of emergency after two days of rain and melting snow caused flooding near Libby and Troy.

Lincoln County emergency manager Kirk Kraft told the Daily Inter Lake Wednesday the water appears to be receding after flooding structures along Callahan Creek near Troy and roadways in Troy and Libby.

Responding to a 911 call Wednesday afternoon, firefighters rescued a man they found standing on top of a car in knee-to-waist-deep water. They said the man drove himself and the woman into water in an area where the road was closed near U.S. Highway 30 and Lost Creek Road in Clatskanie, Oregon.

The man was able to get out but responders found the woman dead at the scene. She has not yet been identified.

In Portland, a large Douglas fir tree crashed into a home early Wednesday, killing a 60-year-old woman who was in bed.

The tree was uprooted and sliced through the front corner of the house from the back at about 3:30 a.m., pinning the woman underneath.

Dennis Elleson told The Oregonian his wife, Roberta "Bobbi" Elleson, had moved to a different bedroom to sleep a few hours before.

"I ran in the bedroom and she was moaning," Dennis Elleson told the newspaper. "I went to her side and told her, 'Hang on. Hang on.'"

He said he couldn't move the tree and tried to find a place for her to get air, but it was too late.

In western Washington, seven people were swept into the Puyallup River from a riverbank homeless camp Wednesday morning.

Someone called 911 around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday to report that people were in the river up to their waists and chests beneath the State Route 512 overpass. All were pulled out of the river by authorities by 8 a.m.

Nearby, a small RV park was evacuated Wednesday morning as floodwaters stranded several vehicles.

Firefighters went vehicle-to-vehicle to check on occupants and some people were evacuated by boat. The camp was a temporary home for several dozen RVs and camper-trailers.

People who live along the Snoqualmie River in Washington state are used to waters cresting the banks but the storms that slammed the Pacific Northwest this week were more intense and destructive than the locals have seen in some time.

"This year, we've already had three or four floods already," Eric West said in Fall City, 25 miles east of Seattle. "This one is the worst."

Washington transportation officials closed all lanes of northbound Interstate 5, the state's busiest highway, in an area about 30 miles north of Portland Wednesday afternoon due to a slide that brought rocks and mud onto the road. Cleanup will begin once officials have determined it is safe.

At Sea-Tac Airport, where the official weather for Seattle is recorded, the weather service says 2.13 inches of rain fell Tuesday. That beats the previous Dec. 8 record of 1.61 inches. The National Weather Service in Seattle said in a tweet Wednesday night that the 5.96 inches of rain recorded at Sea-Tac this month makes it the wettest first nine days in December on record.

The storm led to power outages affecting about 100,000 in Washington and Oregon customers at its peak and closed schools.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said landslides and high water closed parts of many state highways.

High water was a problem along the Oregon Coast, where pooling caused road closures, stranded cars and flooded neighborhoods. Heavy damage from flooding led officials in Tillamook County to declare an emergency to free up funds for repairs, County Commission Chair Tim Josi said.

"It's more than our county budget can handle," Josi said, estimating that damage will top $1 million. An RV community, a long-term facility and households were evacuated.