PORTLAND, Ore. – Heavy rains and rising waters have caused road hazards and flooding throughout the region, including evacuations Sunday in Welches, Ore., near the base of Mount Hood.
"With the heavy rains the past 24 hours in Northwest Oregon, there are many areas of high standing water on state highways," the Oregon Department of Transportation warns. "Motorists should be alert while driving through standing water and slow down."
But the city centers – even with 1.5 inches of heavy rainfall – escaped much of the flooding and landslides associated with this weekend's precipitation.
The National Weather Service in Portland has issued flood warnings for rivers and creeks for much of northwestern and central Oregon and Southwest Washington, including predictions that the Sandy River and Portland's Johnson Creek would flood by mid-morning. The Sandy River did flood in parts Sunday morning. However, as of 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Johnson Creek is still below flood stage and KATU Meteorologist Joe Rainieri says it's unlikely that creek will breach its banks ... this time.
Meanwhile, KATU Meteorologist Dave Salesky tells us that it looks like those in Vernonia – anxious about the rising waters there – will escape problems from this event. "The Nehalem River at Vernonia will stay in its banks," Salesky said Sunday.
However, a few areas in Portland have been affected:
Elsewhere in Oregon, two landslides near Tillamook temporarily closed the Highway 6 Wilson River Highway at mileposts 6 and 8. A landslide also closed US Highway 20 (also known as the Santiam Highway) just east of Cascadia. That slide deposited 150 cubic yards of mud, rock and debris on the highway as well as 12 to 14 large trees.
"The slide will result in an extended closure of the highway," the Oregon Department of Transportation reports. "Eastbound motorists should use OR 22 or OR 126 to access Santiam Pass and points east. Westbound motorists will be detoured onto OR 126 (Clear Lake-Belknap Springs Hwy) for points west."
As of 3 p.m. Sunday ODOT crews had succeeded in creating an opening through the landslide for emergency vehicles but traffic is not being allowed through the area until more debris is removed. ODOT will continue to work through the evening.
On the Oregon Coast, standing water on U.S. Highway 101 – south of Seaside at Beerman Creek – rose to more than 10 inches on the roadway. This is an area that typically has high water when at high tide during episodes of heavy rain. ODOT officials said the highway is still open to tall vehicles – such as trucks – but vans and cars are not being allowed through. All traffic is restricted to five miles per hour in the area.
On the way to the coast, a landslide closed U.S. Highway 101 – otherwise known as the Oregon Coast Highway – at milepost 174, approximately 16 miles north of Florence late Sunday afternoon. Crews are responding from Florence and Veneta to remove 120 cubic yards of material covering both lanes of the highway.
"ODOT managers are optimistic the highway can be reopened tonight," the Oregon Department of Transportation reports. "There is no detour available, so motorists should avoid the area or expect long delays."
South of Seaside, two landslides have temporarily closed Oregon Highway 6, also called Wilson River Highway, at mileposts 6 and 8 east of Tillamook. Department of Transportation crews are cleaning up the area, but no detours have been set up. Motorists should avoid the area and expect long delays.
Meanwhile, headed toward the Gorge, Multnomah Falls has seen several small landslides and flooding. Access from exit 31 on Interstate 84 is closed due to flooding and Multnomah Falls trail is temporarily closed due to slide dangers. Forest Service Staff will reopen the trail and pedestrian tunnel when it is safe for public use.
In Washington state, the National Weather Service in Portland issued a flood warning for the Cowlitz River at Kelso Sunday afternoon. The river level was 20.4 feet around noon, with flood stage at 21.5 feet. The river is expected to rise above flood stage around 7 p.m. Sunday night, cresting near 22 feet on Monday morning.
"This means flooding of several low-lying roads and the Cowlitz Gardens neighborhood," Cowlitz County Emergency Management reports.
Several roads in Cowlitz County already have been impacted by the heavy rains, though officials say the county will only see "minor flooding." However, "It takes only a few inches of swiftly flowing water to carry vehicles away," according to the NWS. For the latest Cowlitz County road closures, visit www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/dem/roads.
Meteorologist Salesky says the biggest problem will be on the Cowlitz River at Randle, Wash. Near-record flood waters are expected there.
Specific Washington road hazards include mudslides that closed State Route 14 near Cape Horn in Skamania County, State Route 411 near Hazel Dell Road in Kelso, and State Route 508 at Bear Canyon in both directions. Washington State Department of Transportation crews also are working to clear smaller slides on US 12 near Davis Lake Road, at milepost 101, and State Route 4 east of Cathlamet, at mileposts 37 to 39.
Crews are on-scene at these closures, clearing mud, rocks and trees. Utilities crews are also working to clear and repair power lines. Sandbags and sand are available for Cowlitz County residents at the Public Works Shop at 2215 Talley Way. Each person is allowed 25 sandbags and must bring their own shovel. Bags are also available for Kelso residents at the Kelso Public Works Shop on Parrott Way in Kelso. Residents must bring their own shovels.
Flood warnings and advisories continue to blanketed the Portland metro area, the Willamette Valley, coastal areas and much of southwestern Washington. The advisories for these areas likely will remain in effect until Monday evening as rain continues to fall.
Watch Sunday's weather coverage by clicking the photo below: