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'It’s someone’s worst day': 5 people trapped near Grays River in Washington due to flood, rescued by Coast Guard

On Tuesday, the Coast Guard said the Grays River at Rosburg reached "major flooding" stage — meaning that the river reached heights over 16 feet.

WASHINGTON — Five people were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on the Grays River in southwest Washington on Tuesday.

The 13th Coast Guard District said the people were trapped in flooding conditions near Rosburg, Wash. An aircrew from Air Station Astoria arrived on an MH-60 Jayhawk and safely hoisted all five, who were in stable condition, then transported them to await emergency medical services.

The Coast Guard said the Grays River at Rosburg reached "major flooding" stage — meaning that the river had reached heights over 16 feet.

Keith Williams, an AST1 rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard, said the initial report indicated that four people were stranded at a home. 

"We found them fairly quick," Williams said. "There’s a lot of debris in the water. When we first came into the town of Grays River, I could see a heat sign signature on the camera. It was a herd of cows, they had all congregated on a small island."

After much searching, Williams said, the aircrew was able to locate the house where the stranded people were located.

"We found the house probably within 10 minutes or so of searching," he said, "while we were coming up with a plan to evacuate the people off of the house."

While the crew was working on rescuing the four people, the fire department contacted and alerted them regarding a person stranded on a car in flood waters.

"So we deviated from the house and took another five minutes or so and we were scanning and searching … everyone was like, all in right now," said Williams. 

Credit: KGW

The aircrew was able to locate the stranded woman after floodwaters had washed her out into the water — leaving her sitting on top of her car. After going through their rescue checklist, they came up with a plan and worked to move her to safety. 

"We came up to make it safer for the survivor. And the flight mech, Luke, he lowered me down and came up with a plan, lowered me down in front of the Jeep and let the current drift me into the Jeep," said Williams. "When I was able to make contact with it, I was able to climb on and I did my checklist when I was with her to make sure she wasn’t injured, making sure there was no one else in the car and I put her in the quick strap and we came up together."

Credit: KGW

Williams says the crew was faced with various challenges. Typically most rescue operations operate offshore; flying inland poses more risks such as looking out for trees, cables, towers and bridges. 

"(The survivors were) definitely shook up … it’s not an easy day. Unfortunately, in our business, it was an exciting day for us, but anytime it happens it’s someone’s worst day — could be the worst day of their life — and so you have compassion for those people," said Williams. "It was unfortunate, because they lost a lot of property … and we just wish the best for them."

Credit: KGW

RELATED: School closures, flooded roadways on Oregon coast amid heavy rain

Heavy rain also prompted school and road closures on the Oregon coast Tuesday as the latest in a series of atmospheric rivers swamped the northwest portion of the state. 

State Route 503 near Cougar remained closed until further notice due to water and damages in the roadway, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). WSDOT officials ask people to avoid traveling in the area.

A flood warning was issued for the Willapa River in southwest Washington as well. The NWS warned of minor flooding in Raymond. The city of Kalama announced it'll have free sandbags available to the public, with the fill station behind the City Public Works Shop at 6315 Old Pacific Highway South. 

Moderate to heavy rain was expected to continue at a steady pace for hours on Tuesday in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington, with a flood watch in effect for much of the region through 4 p.m. Wednesday and a Flood Advisory through 1 a.m. Thursday.

The Red Cross Cascades Region said in a statement that they will be remaining on standby in case they are needed.

"The Red Cross Cascades Region is no longer being asked to open a shelter at the Johnson Park Community Center in Rosburg, WA. We know the situation is evolving in our area and we remain ready to respond if needed," the agency said.

They also shared a few flooding safety tips: "Flooding can develop slowly or quickly. Flash floods can be sudden and violent. Climate change increases our risk of many types of flooding. But we can take action to prepare. Prepare now to protect yourself and your loved ones."

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