Runoff from mountain snowpack combined with significant rainfall in past weeks has contributed to high creek and river levels, posing flood risks to some areas of Grant County.
The National Weather Service in Pendleton issued a flood warning for small streams in Grant County on Monday that will be in place through 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 9.
Some residents living near Canyon Creek were evacuated, as flooding occurred in some locations. Additional rain is expected Monday night, with additional flooding possible in other streams and creeks through Tuesday.
The National Weather Service advises residents to be aware of rising water levels and to be prepared to leave if necessary.
“Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads,” the weather service said in its flood warning. “Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.”
The North Fork of the John Day River reached 11.2 feet at Monument by 8:30 a.m. on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Flood stage is reached at 14 feet.
The river could rise above the flood stage by early Tuesday and continue to rise to 14.9 feet by late evening. The river is expected to fall below flood stage by Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service forecasts.
Grant County Emergency Management Coordinator Ted Williams told the Eagle the Silvies River was over its bank at Seneca with risk of running over Shirttail Creek Road.
Williams said minor flooding was reported on Dixie Creek in Prairie City, and minor flooding by Canyon Creek was reported in the J Bar L Ranch area about 10 miles south of Canyon City.
Ten automatic stream gauges are maintained and operated in Grant County, Williams said. The data on stream levels is sent to the National Weather Service in Pendleton, which relays the information to the Oregon Emergency Response System.
The information is then sent to the Grant County 911 dispatch center, which relays the information to Williams, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, John Day police and John Day fire.
Seneca City Manager Raamin Burrell told the Eagle Monday morning that the Silvies River had formed a “lake” on city property as it often does this time of year. No buildings were endangered, she said.
Williams said sandbags are staged year-round at several locations along Canyon Creek — near the Les Schwab Tire Center, at Brent Street and Fourth Avenue, north of Grant Union High School and at the former county yard south of the courthouse. Prefabricated concrete blocks are staged at the Inland Street and Nugget Street bridges in Canyon City, he said.
By 11 a.m. Monday morning, a crew from the Grant County Road Department brought an excavator to the Inland Street bridge in preparations to close the bridge as Canyon Creek streamflow crashed into the bridge’s upstream stringers.
The plan was to place the interlocking concrete blocks across the bridge and cover them with plastic sheeting held in place with sandbags. The blocks would interlock with blocks set permanently in place at the upstream east side of the bridge.
But just in case that barrier didn’t prevent Canyon Creek from overflowing its banks and heading straight toward the Grant School District 3 bus barn and the high school’s football field and track, students, school staff and volunteers gathered to set special lightweight barriers in place to protect school property.
The lightweight plastic barriers lock together and are then filled with water from a tender and held in place with stakes. Grant School District 3 Superintendent Brett Uptmor said the district has owned the plastic barriers for several years, but this was the first time they would be used.
Rain continued to fall as the crew worked to set the barriers in place to protect the school.