'Insane' Flooding in Oregon Prompts Emergency Evacuation and Flash Flood Warning as Collapsed Umatilla Bridge Washes Away

Severe flooding in Oregon caused by the overflow of the Umatilla River around Pendleton prompted the emergency evacuation of the surrounding areas on Thursday, including the Umatilla Indian Reservation, located just east of Pendleton. Several flood warnings have been issued for parts of Oregon and Washington, the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed.

The water level of the river rose to nearly 20 feet as of late Thursday night and is expected to reach its highest level by Friday morning, entering a "major flood stage," the NWS for Pendleton warned in a post on its official Twitter account on Thursday.

"The Umatilla River is continuing to rise and is expected to continue current flooding status for the next twelve hours," the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation said in a statement on Thursday.

"Due to extreme flooding conditions, an emergency evacuation declaration is being issued to Umatilla Reservation residents who reside along the Umatilla River or its larger tributaries.

"All residents affected by flooding are advised to evacuate immediately and seek shelter," the statement added.

Official flood warnings are in place for Oregon, which expire at 10:45 p.m. PST on Friday, and for the Umatilla River, which is in effect until February 8 at 6:10 a.m. PST. A flash flood warning was issued for College Place and Garrett in Washington. That warning is in effect until 10:45 a.m. PST on Friday, the NWS for Pendleton said.

The flood warning was issued when "the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening," while a flash flood warning indicates a flash flood (a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop) is imminent or occurring, according to the NWS.

All of Pendleton's riverside area, including two mobile home parks, is being evacuated, according to Andrew Rogers, a storm spotter for the NWS in Pendleton, Washington's KAPP TV-KVEW TV reports.

A helicopter reportedly flew in from Salem, the capital of Oregon, to Pendleton on Thursday and began rescue operations for stranded residents along the Umatilla River on Bingham Road, Washington's KEPR reports. They included people stuck on a roof at a home on Umatilla Tribal land, according to KAPP TV-KVEW TV.

The bridge in Thorn Hollow, Oregon, collapsed and was washed away by the floods, according to a video shared by the East Oregonian on its official Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Bridge Collapse

A bridge near Thorn Hollow slowly gives way as roaring flood water from the Umatilla River inundates the area Thursday afternoon.

Posted by East Oregonian on Thursday, February 6, 2020

"Bingham Road has multiple areas of high water and landslides. It is recommended to avoid Bingham Road until the water levels recede," the Umatilla Indian Reservation said in its statement.

"Upper Cayuse Road is closed to all non-emergency personnel. Thornhollow Bridge is compromised and impassable," it added.

Locals just outside the Pendleton city limits and along the Umatilla and Walla Walla River and several tributaries are also affected by the flooding, Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan told KAPP TV-KVEW TV.

Residents were told to stay away from high waters and closed roads, as the waters are fast-moving with a considerable amount of debris, according to the sheriff.

"Mandatory evacuations are beginning in the Hummingbird Place / Kooskooskie areas. Any residents in the area are urged to evacuate. If you are in need of assistance please contact dispatch at the number below," The Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office warned in a post on its official Facebook page updated on Friday.

The Red Cross of the Cascades region of Oregon opened a shelter in Pendleton for those affected. The Umatilla Indian Reservation also noted, "The Cmuytpáma Warming Station will receive evacuees for urgent shelter needs. The Designated Coordination Center is the Mission Gym: 73282 July Grounds Lane, Pendleton Oregon 97801."

"Affected residents in need of emergency assistance due to flooding should call Umatilla Tribal Dispatch at 541-278-0550. Family of those affected who are currently awaiting [the] arrival of residents being transported by emergency personnel are advised to wait at the designated coordination center which is the Mission Gym on July Grounds Lane," the Umatilla Indian Reservation added.

While the flooding had not affected highways in nearby Walla Walla County in Washington, several road closures were announced: at Last Chance Road (closed between Mission Road and Stovall Road), Seven Mile Road (closed from Mill Creek Road to the dead end), Scenic Loop Road (closed entirely), and Preston Avenue (Highway 12) which is closed in Waitsburg between Main Street and Garden Street, The Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office wrote in a post on its official Facebook page.

"Please avoid the areas of high water as erosion is possible and there is danger of being swept away," the sheriff's office noted. "Please do not drive around barricades or through water over roadways as that is also highly dangerous and illegal."

UPDATE 02/07/2020 02:30 AM -Mandatory evacuations are beginning in the Hummingbird Place / Kooskooskie areas. Any residents in the area are urged to evacuate. If you are in need of assistance please contact dispatch at the number below.UPDATE 02/06/2020, Midnight - Current Road Closures:- Last Chance Road closed between Mission Road and Stovall Road - Seven Mile Road closed from Mill Creek Road to the dead end - Scenic Loop Road closed entirely - Preston Avenue (Highway 12) closed in Waitsburg, between Main Street and Garden Street------Please avoid the areas of high water as erosion is possible and there is danger of being swept away. Please do not drive around barricades or through water over roadways as that is also highly dangerous and illegal.Thank you for your cooperation. If you have information about water over the roadway, please advise dispatch at 509-527-3265.

Posted by Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, February 6, 2020

Several residents of Oregon posted messages about the floods on social media, with updates on the developing situation.

"Yikes! Pendleton is flooding. This is insane. I think there might be water over all the bridges by the end of the night. The levee has been breached. My office is probably going to flood," wrote @defendsthepeeps.

"The rain is getting bad here in the #PNW! Rivers are reaching there [their] breaking point before they spill over, causing thousands of dollars in damage to homes and property! Please keep the area of western Washington and Oregon on your mind! #rain #flood," wrote @DieselQueen1979.

"This flood in Pendleton is no joke. My mom, step dad and siblings have been hanging out at a restaurant waiting to see if they can return home," wrote @_elissaxo.

 McNary Lock and Dam near Umatilla, Oregon
The backside of the McNary Lock and Dam which forms Lake Wallula, near Umatilla, Oregon, pictured in June 2005. Getty Images
'Insane' Flooding in Oregon Prompts Emergency Evacuation and Flash Flood Warning as Collapsed Umatilla Bridge Washes Away | News