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Lower Columbia enjoys 'sweet spot' as winter storms ravage region

Lower Columbia enjoys 'sweet spot' as winter storms ravage region

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Ice storms are raging to the north. Rainstorms are swelling rivers and triggering landslides to the south.

But the Lower Columbia area, even though it's soggy, "is sitting in the sweet spot, and we're happy to be here," said Lori Hendrickson of the Cowlitz County Department of Emergency Management.

Small streams and tributaries in Cowlitz, Wahkiakum and Columbia counties are on a flood advisory, but no local rivers are forecast to hit flood stage, even though the Weather Service predicts rain for every day over the next week.

"The Cowlitz up to now has not been in the center of the moisture train," said Chuck Orwig, hydrologist with the Northwest River Forecast Center. "Snow is melting, but there is not enough rain hitting the Cowlitz or Lewis river area to cause things to go to flood."

One river to watch might be the Coweeman River. The tributary of the Cowlitz had risen about three feet since Wednesday, hitting 9 feet. However, there is no established flood stage on the Coweeman that triggers warnings or flood fights.

Orwig said the heaviest rainfall has been in the Central Willamette Valley and the Mount Hood area.

Creeks have overflowed onto some Cowlitz County roads, said Amy Ammer of the county Department of Emergency Management. Thursday afternoon, affected roads were portions of Alpha and Westover drives, Bates, Ostrander, Rose Valley, Bodine and Bond roads, all in the Kelso area. None of these roads were completely closed and traffic was moving, according to the DEM's Web site, which will be updated frequently, Ammer said.

The state Department of Transportation closed 30 miles of State Route 6 in Pacific County Thursday afternoon due to downed trees and power lines on the road in both directions. The highway closure is from Frances to the area between Adna and Doty. DOT crews were working Thursday to clear the road, which will remain closed until further notice.

Trees and other storm-tossed debris are also to blame for Thursday's suspension of Amtrak passenger service between Seattle and Portland. Amtrak says service will continue between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. It also will continue between Portland and Eugene.

The Lewis County Sheriff's Office is asking citizens to avoid the areas west and north of Centralia as the roadways are icy and dangerous. Specifically, Lincoln Creek Road, Michigan Hill Road, Teague Road, Kohse Road, Hyppa Road, Independence Road, Garrard Greek Road, and others in that area.

Cowlitz County road hazards: http://www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/dem/roads/.

Current traveler information: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic or call 5-1-1.

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