Runoff from mountain snowpack combined with significant rainfall in past weeks has contributed to high creek and river levels, posing flood risks to many areas of Grant County.
The county declared an emergency Monday, and rain fell through the night in the John Day area, bringing river and creek levels even higher by Tuesday morning.
The National Weather Service in Pendleton issued a flood warning for small streams in Grant County on Monday through 4 p.m. Tuesday, when rivers and creeks were expected to crest.
NWS forecast about 0.10 to 0.24 inches of additional rainfall in the region on Tuesday, with cooler air moving in later in the day and light snow expected above 5,500 feet elevation. The cooler temperatures were expected to slow mountain snowpack runoff.
Canyon Creek was flowing freely over several bridges in Canyon City, including Nugget Street and Inland Street. In addition, the Portal Road and Adam Drive bridges were closed to traffic.
Several highways in Grant County were experiencing flooding. Flooding from the North Fork of the John Day River had closed Highway 402 and Highway 19 near Kimberly, and flooding from the Silvies River temporarily closed Highway 395 just south of Seneca.
Emergency workers were called out in Mt. Vernon, where lots of sandbagging was underway on Tuesday and the city park was closed. Much of the Clyde Holliday State Park was underwater from the overflowing John Day River.
All Grant School District 3 schools were closed on Tuesday, including Grant Union Junior-Senior High School, Humbolt Elementary and Seneca School.
Canyon Creek was flowing about 1.5 feet higher at Inland Street than one day earlier. The railings and pedestrian bridge at Inland Street had been removed to prevent logs and debris from lodging and preventing stream flow. A county excavator was in place to remove debris as it reached the bridge.
Extensive sandbagging and barricade placement was established from the Inland Street bridge downstream in an effort to prevent any creek water that overran its banks from running onto the Gibco and Grayback properties nearby or to the Grant School District 3 bus barn and superintendent’s office or farther on to Grant Union High School property.
School buses had been moved from the bus barn to a parking lot just north of the high school. In 2011, flooding at Inland Street ran into the Gibco store, with about 1.5-foot high flood water running through the north side entrance door. Flooding that year also reached the school superintendent’s offices.
Some evacuations were underway along Canyon Creek on Tuesday, with one family in shelter by Tuesday morning.
The Red Cross Cascades Region opened a shelter Tuesday morning at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 944 E. Main St., John Day. Individuals and families who have been impacted by flooding conditions and are in need of shelter assistance are encouraged to simply show up at the shelter for help.
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer issued a press release warning the public about flood dangers and asking people to cooperate with emergency workers as they deal with high-water dangers.
“Typically, flooding and high water events draw crowds and onlookers into areas where emergency and maintenance crews are trying to access,” he said. “We are asking people who do not live in specific or general areas of where this flood is taking place, to stay out of or away from these areas. Traffic and congestion generates delays and a potential for accidents in these areas also rise. As of right now, we do not need additional issues to contend with.”