Wind warnings, flood watch expected todayHigh winds and heavy rain buffeted the North Coast overnight, causing power outages and littering highways with debris. Storms are forecast to continue into the weekend.

Power went out in much of Astoria early this morning, but had been restored to all but 91 customers in the North Coast region by 8:50 a.m., a Pacific Power spokesman said.

A high wind warning remained in effect today for most of the coasts of Oregon and Washington, with gusts forecast to reach 75 mph at the headlands and 65 mph in coastal communities.

"It's a moving target for us," said Dave Kvamme, Pacific Power spokesman. "Beginning late yesterday afternoon we began seeing outages and it was due to high winds ... We've got crews out, of course, and they're working on things as they happen."

A flood watch was also in effect for the area today, with flooding predicted in rivers draining the Coast Range, including the Willapa and Naselle in Southwest Washington and the Nehalem in Northwest Oregon. The flood watch for the central Oregon Coast was lifted.

Rain, heavy at times, is predicted to continue today.

Astoria and Jewell schools were running two hours late this morning. Others were on schedule.

"There was no power and it just kicked on," said Maria McGregor, night custodian at Astoria High School. "When our power's out, our Internet system and everything's down."

Power was lost to much of Astoria this morning after a main feeder line from the Youngs Bay substation was knocked out. Power was restored at 7:27 a.m., Pacific Power's Kvamme said.

Jewell's power came back on at 6:30 a.m., but by then the school had already declared it would be running two hours late, teacher Marsha Tisdale said.

Knappa schools lost power for three hours, but it came back on at about 6:30 p.m., Superintendent Rick Pass said. Administrators chose not to delay school.

The National Weather Service in Portland reported a very strong Pacific cold front would push inland today. Another strong low-pressure system is forecast to move across the region Friday night and Saturday morning.

A high surf advisory remained in effect today from Cape Shoalwater, Wash., to Florence. Combined seas are predicted to reach 25 to 30 feet. Seas are forecast to calm slightly overnight, returning to 25 feet Friday.

Seas of this magnitude can produce beach erosion and toss large logs and debris far up the beaches.

Oregon State Parks and Recreation statistics show more people are injured in March than in any other month of the year.

"Storm watchers should seek out safe vantage points and be especially careful on headlands and along the beach," said Robert Smith, state parks beach safety coordinator.

Winds are expected to continue tonight with rain turning to showers after midnight. Showers and more rain are forecast for Friday.

The warm, rainy weather is reducing the Cascade Range snowpack following Pacific storms that dumped about four feet of much-needed snow in the last week.

"It hurts because of the snow melt," Cynthia Palmer, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Pendleton said Wednesday. "Our snowpack is decreasing again, and it was increasing - but the rain is good as well."

The Olympic Mountains "appear to be the focus of the range," said Chris Burke, a weather service meteorologist.

All the main rivers in Eastern Washington were below flood stage.

The snowpack is a critical component of summer water supplies for irrigation, electricity generation, fish and recreation.

To the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Yakima, Wash., which operates five reservoirs in the Yakima River Basin, any increase in the snowpack is good news, said Kate Puckett, river operations supervisor.

"If it warms up and rains on the snow and comes off before we can use it, that is not as good," she said.

Last week, the bureau predicted that the 460,000-acre Yakima Irrigation Project would have at least 71 percent of a full supply of water for the season that begins in April.

Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon, said the storms last week increased the water content in the basin snowpack by 12 percent.


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