Floodwaters Begin To Recede In Oregon, Washington

Feb 9, 2020

Clearing skies were welcome news for residents in Oregon and Washington this weekend following days of heavy flooding that has forced evacuations and untold millions in damage.

This week's flooding followed a particularly wet month of January, even for the Pacific Northwest. In some parts of the region, rain fell on 28 out of the 31 days in January. Snowmelt compounded flooding, pushing several rivers in the region to crest their banks.

In northeast Oregon, water started to recede from roads on Sunday, allowing residents to return to their homes and assess the damage, the Associated Press reports.

Twenty-one people were evacuated by the Oregon National Guard when they were airlifted out of flooded conditions on Saturday. At least one person, a 62-year-old woman, has been reported missing in a region hit hard by the flooding, The Oregonian reports.

Leroy Cunningham of Waitsburg, Wash. looks at the Touchet River raging behind his farmhouse.
Anna King / Northwest News Network

Muddy floodwaterers are continuing to flow in some areas and not all the roads in the region are accessible yet. Nearly 10 miles of Interstate 84 remain closed in Oregon. The road could remain closed for a week before reopening, officials told the AP.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties on Friday because of the severe flooding. In northern Umatilla County, the Umatilla River crested on Thursday at more than 19 feet, according to the AP.

The lamprey restoration project on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, near Mission, Ore., was completely destroyed by recent flooding. Tanks full of some 1,500 eels washed away. The tribes are working to restore this valuable traditional food source by rearing juvenile lamprey.
Anna King / Northwest News Network

Umatilla county residents and the Umatilla Indian Reservation were urged to evacuate their homes. They were warned that emergency services might not have been able to reach them if they stayed, reports the Northwest News Network.

Many families evacuated quickly, but it's unclear when they'll be able to return home.

Massive amounts of bedding, clothing, boots, food and water were donated and organized at the Umatilla tribes' emergency coordination center in Mission, Ore.
Anna King / Northwest News Network

"We got people who had to move out of their house within a few hours," Kat Brigham, chair of the tribes' board of trustees, told Northwest News Network. "People have been able to get some of their supplies out you know that they need, and some have not been able to get anything out at all."

Donations of bedding, clothing, boots, food and water were organized at the Umatilla tribes' emergency coordination center. Brigham said the flooding was frightening and exhausting, but she's proud of the way the community has come together to support each other.

In Washington, at least 48,000 residents lost power on Friday as high winds toppled trees. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had registered 12.4 inches of rain as of midnight Friday, according to The Seattle Times. That's nearly double the average of 6.5 inches typical for this time of year.

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