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WILD WINTER IN THE NORTHWEST // Powerful storm pounds Pacific Northwest

The Northwest was pummeled by a second major storm in less than a week Sunday as 2 feet of snow, heavy rain and high winds blocked major highways, collapsed roofs and closed the Space Needle.

As the Tampa Bay area basked in near-record high temperatures, blizzard warnings were posted for northwestern Washington, where snow was piled by bone-chilling gusts as powerful as 90 mph. Compounding the problems was heavy rain, which created an icy glaze and led to flood warnings for parts of Oregon and the rest of western Washington.

"Basically we're paralyzed," said Neil Clement, director of emergency management in northwest Washington's Whatcom County. "Even the snow plows are getting stuck. That's how bad it is."

Washington Gov. Mike Lowry declared a disaster in 11 western counties and activated the National Guard. A symbol of Seattle, the 610-foot Space Needle, was closed because heavy wet snow and ice was falling in "something resembling missiles," said spokeswoman Lynn Brackpool.

Travel ground to a halt throughout the region. Seven to 10 inches of snow fell on Seattle overnight on top of 6 to 12 already on the ground. Transit officials canceled bus service when most of the vehicles were stuck in the snow or just frozen to the ground. Most taxicabs would carry only people with medical emergencies. Some people used snowmobiles to get around the city.

All three main routes across the Cascade Range in Washington _ Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, U.S. 2 over Stevens Pass and U.S. 12 over White Pass _ were closed by multiple avalanches. Officials said there was little chance they could be reopened before today.

Avalanches also closed a 45-mile stretch of Interstate 84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, and one just west of Cascade Locks trapped a pickup truck. Both occupants escaped safely.

"It almost looks like water but it's snow and it's moving that fast," said Ron Scheele of the Oregon Department of Transportation. "Once we scoop it up to get it out of there, more snow replaces it."

Service was drastically curtailed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Several hundred passengers had to spend the night there because airline crews couldn't reach the airport on snow- and ice-covered streets, said Anita Risdon, a Port of Seattle spokeswoman.

In Oregon, ice caused a two-hour power outage at Portland International Airport's southern terminal in the morning, delaying flights for half the airport's passengers. Another power outage darkened the airport Thursday.

Most Amtrak passenger routes between Washington and Oregon and into Vancouver, British Columbia were canceled.

Interstate 5 was closed around Seattle when clogged drains caused water to rise as high as car doors.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay area has had near-record heat. Sunday's high of 83 at Tampa International Airport is just 2 degrees shy of the record set in 1990. The normal high temperature for this time of year is 70. The unseasonable warmth is expected to last locally at least through New Year's Day, according to the National Weather Service.

In Oregon, high wind along the coast toppled dozens of trees, closing several highways. The wind hit 98 mph at the coastal town of Netarts.

Washington's Whatcom County and neighboring parts of Canada's British Columbia were hardest hit. Whatcom County got more than 2 feet of snow overnight, and the 90-mph gusts dropped the wind-chill factor past 50 degrees below zero.

State Patrol officers were abandoning their cars in Whatcom County, and police in Everett _ 25 miles north of Seattle _ had to make their patrols in four-wheel-drive vehicles borrowed from the Public Works Department.

"We've had to basically abandon our patrol cars," said police spokesman Elliott Woodall. "We put chains on them and they still can't maneuver on the side streets."

A few miles north of the border, about 100 cars were snowbound at Abbotsford, British Columbia, police Sgt. George Lukefeld said. One family took in 40 stranded motorists, he said.

The weight of a week's worth of snow and frozen rain also took its toll. In suburban Seattle, police reported roof cave-ins at a Drug Emporium outlet and a K mart store. The roof at the new Entiat High School gym in central Washington also collapsed Sunday. No injuries were reported.

Roofs also collapsed at 17 of the 19 structures at the Port of Edmonds marina north of Seattle, sinking about 270 of the 400 boats moored inside. Three live-aboard boats were evacuated before they sank.

"It's as if no boats were there," said Tim Whitman, an assistant Edmonds fire chief.

Ironically, snow and ice problems outside the arena in Vancouver canceled the National Hockey League game between the Canucks and the San Jose Sharks.

Puget Sound Power & Light, western Washington's largest private utility, reported 131,450 outages Sunday afternoon, and the number was rising. It was as low as 65,000 before the new storm hit.

Workers were called back from vacation and crews were summoned from other utilities as far away as Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Denver.

_ Information from Times staff writer Chuck Murphy and Reuters was used in this report.

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