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Associated Press
Melanie Haley walks Sunday beneath one of three trees that came down near her house in Eugene, Ore. The trees fell Saturday during an ice and snow storm that swept through Willamette Valley.

Storm packs punch in Pacific Northwest

– A significant weekend storm disrupted plans across the Northwest U.S., blanketing parts of Washington state with snow, socking Oregon and California with rain and contributing to the deaths of three people.

On Sunday, Seattle-area residents woke up to rare lowland snow. In Portland, city officials sent out a cellphone alert Sunday morning urging residents to stay indoors and avoid travel after freezing rain turned streets and sidewalks into thick sheets of ice.

As a result, parts of Oregon and Washington were bracing for a treacherous morning commute.

The National Weather Service said the first significant storm to hit Northern California in 14 months has produced impressive amounts of rain and snow, but forecasters cautioned Sunday that it would take weeks of similar drenching to end the state’s immediate drought worries.

“This event, while it certainly isn’t going to take us out of the drought, we couldn’t have asked for a better storm,” said meteorologist Scott McGuire in Reno. “We are seeing very, very impressive rainfall and snowfall amounts.”

After subsisting on man-made snow for much of the season, Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts gratefully embraced the more than 3 feet of new snow they got over two days, although the gift heightened the risk of avalanches.

In central Oregon, the Deschutes County sheriff’s office was investigating three storm-related deaths, including that of a 61-year-old Bend man who collapsed while shoveling snow outside his home.

An elderly couple were found Saturday buried in snow, and authorities believe they were walking through heavy snow on an unplowed driveway to their home.

By Sunday, nearly 3 inches fell at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the heaviest snowfall in a single day at that location in about two years.

Parts of southwest Washington got hammered with as much as 5 inches or more in south Thurston County and some parts of Lewis County.

“We don’t get this too often. People are excited,” said Josh Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

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