Rain floods county; bridge out, roads closed

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

November 8, 2006

Heavy rains flooded rivers Monday night leading to the closure of Highway 35 among several roads closed in Hood River County.

Debris pinned behind a Forest Service bridge on Red Hill Drive near Parkdale gathered enough in volume and force to knock the bridge out about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“We got up about 4:30 a.m. and heard things tumbling over the bridge; then an hour later a very loud noise came and we figured the bridge had gone,” said Joyce Gidley, who lives nearby.

She said while they had not been told to evacuate, she and her husband packed up valuables to be ready just in case. Gidley said there were reports of a stranded hunter. The Hood River County Sheriff’s office confirmed the individual had needed help but was no longer stranded.

Sheriff’s deputies were busy patrolling the county to keep an eye on the developing weather situation.

The rain pelting down overnight was part of a winter storm slamming into northwest Oregon. Road closures have been announced across the region. Parkdale Fire Chief Mike McCafferty said the high water blew out Eliot and Coe Creeks, which knocked out two of their fire hydrant systems.

“Our biggest problem is Middle Fork Irrigation; those powerhouses are down,” he said.

McCafferty confirmed that county roads Jordan and Toll Bridge were closed. He said Laurance Lake Dam was not at risk but that it was inaccessible due to the washout caused by high water at Eliot Creek.

A stranded hiker waded across the creek about 12:35 p.m. although a National Guard helicopter had been called to assist. Susan Cox, of the Hood River Ranger District, said that debris over the road at the White River Bridge had forced the closure of Highway 35. The road is closed between Baseline Drive and Highway 26.

The U.S. Forest Service has announced several road closures (see sidebar) and Monday afternoon issued a warning against travel into the Mt. Hood National Forest for 72 hours. It asked that people delay going into the forest until after Thursday.

Logs surfed along the crest of the chocolate-brown Hood River that flowed under the Tucker Creek Bridge Tuesday morning. U.S. Geological Service gauges measured water levels at 10.63 feet gage height and flowing at 8,360 cubic feet per second (cfs) as of Tuesday morning. The same station showed a level of 7.11 gage height and rate of 3,420 cfs on Monday afternoon.

The flood stage for that point is considered 13 feet gage height. The last extreme data listed for a flood is from Feb. 7, 1996. At that time the gage height was 17.11 feet with a flow of 23,300 cfs.

The National Weather Service has a forecast of additional rain through Tuesday evening.

The state has issued a debris flow warning for the Columbia Gorge. Debris flows are dangerous, rapidly moving landslides. Areas of slopes, canyons, gorges and the mouths of mountain streams are among the locations at greatest risk. Additional road closures for Hood River County include:

* Road 16 closed due to bridge out at middle fork of the Hood River

* Road 18 closed from Zigzag to Dee

* Forest Road 2840 closed due to bridge out at Eliot Creek

* Road 48 at 43 to 35

* Road 44 on Highway 35 at 4410

* Bridge at Baseline Road is closed

* Bridge over Robin Hood Creek on Hwy 35 is threatened.

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