THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST: The Northwestern skies cleared, giving millions of drenched citizens in Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho a break from a long deluge, but flooding continues. Hundreds of roads and highways (including large stretches of the east-west artery I-84) are under water or mud, making surface travel between Portland and Seattle impossible. In the Columbia River gorge, mudslides have swept away luxury homes. Near Portland, where sandbagging efforts kept the downtown seawall intact, the cresting Willamette River flooded out a paper plant; many communities are without drinking water. Across the region, more than 15,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, often leaving furniture and pets behind. A state of emergency has been declared for several counties in Oregon and Washington, clearing the way for federal aid. TIME's Paul Koberstein reports from Portland that northwest Oregon has taken the worst hit, but an energetic response from volunteers, the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has lessened the blow. Flooding has claimed four lives so far, but casualties are much lower than they might have been. "For the most part, people have been exercising pretty good judgment and evacuated," says Koberstein.