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A powerful El Niño continues gaining strength, the latest forecast released Thursday said. And while El Niño rains are still weeks away from hitting California, another weather phenomenon that has exacerbated the state’s drought has lifted, allowing heavy storms to target the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.

“Of all the years in which there was a strong El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean, this is the wettest start to any of those years that we’ve observed in the Pacific Northwest, both in Portland and Seattle,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Powerful rains have struck Oregon hard over the past three days, according to the National Weather Service. On Wednesday, one woman drowned when her car entered floodwaters, and another woman was killed after a falling tree crushed her Portland home, according to local news reports.

A photo published in the Tillamook County Pioneer showed the town of Nehalem covered in flood waters, and the newspaper reported that several families have been flooded out of their homes and the U.S. 101 was closed there.

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