Flooding continues in Salem, Willamette to crest this afternoon

Flooding continues in Salem, Willamette to crest this afternoon

A forecast update and videos of Salem flooding are at the bottom of this story.

>>>View photos of flooding in Salem

SALEM, Ore. - Homes, streets, basements and parking lots filled with water in Salem Thursday as a potent storm system moved slowly over the Willamette Valley, pushing many creeks and rivers to flood stage.

"Due to high water throughout the area and the expected continued precipitation, the City of Salem has activated its Emergency Operations Center," Salem police officials said in a press release Thursday morning.

Just after 3:30 p.m. Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency for several Oregon counties that have been severely affected by flooding.

With the declaration, Marion, Coos, Benton and Lincoln counties can now receive immediate help from the state. They could also receive aid from the federal government.

Many streets throughout Salem were closed by police due to high water. The major streets closed are Turner Road between Cascades Gateway Park and Kuebler Boulevard, both 12th and 13th streets SE between McGilchrist and Hines Street and 25th Street SE south of McGilchrist Street.

For more street closures, visit the city's website.

Mill Creek, which runs through part of Salem, was over its banks and muddy water was running into homes and down streets Thursday morning.

City manager Linda Norris told the Statesman Journal newspaper the flooding was "a 40-year event."

Willamette River to crest at 4 p.m. Friday

The Willamette River is expected to crest at 30 feet at about 4 p.m. Friday. The city has provided a map that shows projected impact of the water when the river crests.

The city says its drinking water remains safe.

School bus rolls over. Kids not hurt

A school bus caught in flood waters almost rolled onto its side on Madras near Commercial Street.

Children were inside when the bus began to roll but they were not hurt. They were taken to the office at a nearby apartment complex to dry off.

Another school bus came to take them to school.

Long wait for sandbags

Need outweighed supply as residents rushed to get sandbags to shore up their homes from approaching floodwaters.

At the Davis home on the outskirts of Southeast Salem they fought to hold back the water with sandbags and wood panels. But it took an hour just to get a couple of wheelbarrows full of sandbags.

The city Public Works yard was slammed with flood victims who needed sandbags.

"They're about out of sandbags at Lowes,” said Jody Dockweiler, who waited for an hour for sandbags. She said her basement was flooded.

Prison inmates helped fill the bags and carry them to victims’ trucks and cars. Flood victims raved about the prisoners’ hard work in the time of need. But even the prisoners were having trouble keeping up with the demand.

The city of Salem said, however, it has received over 200,000 sandbags from Albany.

Residents can pick up sandbags at the following locations: 

• Roth’s IGA, West Salem-1130 Wallace Rd NW
• City of Salem Public Works- 14th St SE
• Orchard Heights Park-1165 Orchard Heights Rd NW
• South Salem High School-1910 Church St SE
• Swegle Elementary School-4485 Market St NE
• D St at 14th St NE
• Lowe’s-1930 Turner Rd SE

Buses from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office are at City Hall for people who need transportation, according to the county.

Flooding also forced the city's main post office and sorting facility to be evacuated and closed. According to the U.S. Postal Service, mail will be processed at another location and there should be no delays in service.

KATU reporter Dan Tilkin shot a short video showing the extent of some of the flooding near Mill Creek. Homeowners were placing sandbags but the water was running through yards and streets nearby.

In another video, Sally Beck tells Tilkin how they woke up to Mill Creek floodwaters swirling outside the windows of their home. She said they got up at 5 a.m. and saw the high water and took action to get their belongings out of the house. They expect the water to be in their home by Thursday afternoon.

KATU meteorologist Rhonda Shelby said the Salem area has received 5 inches of rain since Monday and 3 inches in the last 24 hours.

"Meteorologists say the rain is 'training' over the Salem area," Shelby said. She also said the city should expect another 1 to 2 inches of precipitation Thursday before the weather breaks into lighter rain and showers into the weekend.

"There is no doubt in my mind that water levels will be up much higher by tonight," Shelby said of the flooding in Salem. "The storm bull's eye continues to focus on Salem and surrounding communities this morning."

"Rain will taper off by tonight, but the problems have already started.  Right now, the central valley rivers rising are a much bigger deal than anything going on in [Portland]," she added.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued multiple flood warnings, watches and advisories for the Salem area and included a hazardous weather outlook as well. The NWS website said rain will be heavy at times in Salem on Thursday.

NWS radar imagery showed heavy rain falling from south of Eugene all the way to Puget Sound Thursday morning.

Rain is in the forecast for Salem every day through Monday, according to the NWS forecast.

KATU reporters Thom Jensen and Dan Tilkin contributed to this report.

Watch a flooding and forecast update and YouTube videos of flooding in Salem: