Heavy rainfall in the Blue Mountains this week is leaving Umatilla County in a state of emergency Friday morning.
Umatilla County Commissioner John Shafer said the county joined the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the city of Weston in declaring an emergency, and similar declarations are expected from Pendleton and Echo later today.
"We've seen better days," he said.
Interstate 84 remains closed in both directions between Hermiston and Pendleton, and to trucks between Pendleton and Ontario westbound as floodwaters continue to head south and road shoulders fill with traffic. Other major roadways are also experiencing closures.
The City of Pendleton will remain in a major flood stage until at least Friday afternoon, the NWS said Friday morning. The Umatilla River crested at 19.8 feet Thursday night between 9-10 p.m.
“This is certainly a very rare event,” said meteorologist Marc Austin.
Austin said those who evacuated should avoid returning to their homes until Saturday or possibly Sunday morning.
Flood stages and precipitation
In Gibbon, east of Pendleton, a secondary flood crest is anticipated in the Umatilla River. River forecasts from the weather service show water is rising to 12 feet and discharge is occurring at more than 10,500 cubic feet per second today, but it is forecasted to lower by tomorrow.
Austin said the crest will likely result in continual rising waters in the Northeast Riverside Avenue Friday afternoon.
Along the Touchet River, close to Milton-Freewater, a secondary major flood crest is also occurring. Water is expected to rise up to 18 feet today, and discharge at more than 15,000 cubic feet per second today, reaching historical records, according to the Northwest River Forecast website.
The effects of the flood differ from community to community, but the county government is sending out resources to many of them.
After extensive flooding in the Thorn Hollow area that required a residential rescue, Shafer said Umatilla County sent out a two-person Search and Rescue crew to see if any other residents needed help. Shafer said the crew is now stranded and are awaiting rescue themselves.
Shafer added that the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office is summoning its marine deputies to help out people in the Rieth area, west of Pendleton.
Further north, Shafer said Athena only received minor flooding but Weston was not as lucky.
Shafer said the flooding was extensive in Weston, although water levels appear to be dropping.
— This is a breaking news story and will be updated.