Volunteers spent Saturday providing food and shelter to community members displaced by flood waters from the Umatilla River.
As many as 50 homes in Echo were directly affected by flooding late Thursday and early Friday across the Echo Rural Fire Protection District area, according to the district.
“Things are good, considering everything,” said Echo Community Church Pastor John Marcum.
The church opened Friday to provide meals to displaced people and emergency crews working to alleviate damage in the area. Marcum said they plan to stay open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day through Monday, possibly into Tuesday.
“We’ll be open as long as we need,” he said.
The church also has bottled water and some toiletries available for those in need.
Marcum and his wife fled their own home on the west side of Echo early Friday morning, and when they returned later they found waters rising at least three feet. They will likely lose some of their belongings, Marcum said, but the house should be OK, noting that others were probably not so lucky.
One person sought shelter at the Echo High School, and others who were displaced likely headed to the Pendleton Convention Center or to stay with family outside of the flooded areas.
“Some houses will be inhabitable,” Marcum said. “The flooding was much worse this year than in a long time.”
On Saturday afternoon, some homes in Echo that had been surrounded by water on Friday morning were on dry — or more often, muddy — ground.
At the school, rows of cots were set up in the commons area, but no one was at the makeshift shelter. In another part of the building, an AAU basketball tournament going on in the gym marked the community's gradual return to normalcy.
Volunteer fire crews, along with the Stanfield Police Department, jumped into action Thursday night to notify people in at-risk areas around Stanfield and Echo about the impending floods.
Fire Chief Delbert Gerhke said that GPS applications were directing people down flooded county roads like Thielson, Rieth, Echo Meadows and Stanfield Meadows roads, which all remained closed Saturday afternoon.
“It got really hectic as soon as the interstate closed down,” he said.
Interstate 84 remained closed between mileposts 182 and 188 on Saturday. The flood water that had covered a section of the interstate on Friday was gone, but the Oregon Department of Transportation needs to assess the damage and determine what repairs may need completed before it reopens.
Stanfield and Echo residents who use well water are still on a safety notice asking them to bring all water to a full rolling boil for at least three minutes before drinking. Umatilla County Fire District 1 also put out a notice Saturday reminding people that soil erosion from flood waters, added to Saturday's high winds, could cause trees to topple at any time. They ask residents to be cautious when walking under trees.
In Stanfield, inches of water remained around properties off Highway 395, on Stanfield Meadows Road Saturday afternoon. It is unclear if anyone was forced to evacuate their homes.
And in Umatilla, a flooded athletic complex by Umatilla High School had the school district and police warning residents to stay away from the area — or else face possible prosecution Friday.
“The last thing we want is an already horrible situation to become worse because someone gets hurt. Also, be advised areas of Umatilla River Road are closed and plan to use detours of that route,” stated the Umatilla Police Department Facebook page.
The Umatilla City Council planned to have an emergency meeting Saturday night to declare a state of emergency.
Multiple people were evacuated from Umatilla River Road Friday night, according to the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office. It is unclear how many people in the area had to leave.
Umatilla County Fire District 1 confirmed Saturday that crews provided aid to surrounding areas, but said no assets were dispatched that afternoon.