The Willamette Valley Flood of 1996
Its happening now. What caused it? How does this compare to the
big flood of 1964?
Note: This is not a little flood. Its a serious
flood for all of Western Washington and Oregon and as of Feb 8
at 2 PM - all rivers are still rising. By any reasonable estimate,
this flood will equal that of 1964. It will likely exceed that
in many specific locations.
Okay, you weren't kidding!.
Got any more pictures or links to other sites?
Record Crest Levels Predicted for
Many Rivers in Washington State
Quick Synopsis as of 9:30 PM Feb 8:
A couple of images taken with a digital camera of the Willamette
near UO campus at 1:30 pm on Feb 8. In general, the river doesn't
fill this much of the frame!
- River level plots will be updated tomorrow. By now
the situation should be clear anyway
- The most serious flooding in the Willamette Valley is around
the Salem Area where upwards of 15,000 people have been evacuated
(mostly in the Keizer area).
- There is probably 2--4 hours of more rain, and it will
be tapering off. Extended clearing period should begin sometime
around noon on Friday.
- I5 is completely shutdown due to mudslides south of Olympia WA
- Maximum river levels in Washington and Oregon should be occurring
in the next few hours.
- Latest predicted flood crests for Oregon:
- Salem: 36.5 feet (flood stage = 25 feet)
- Portland: 29 feet (one foot lower than earlier forecast)
- Oregon City: 44.5 feet
- Albany 31 feet
All major river valleys are prone to large floods over timescales
of decades. The
Willamette River Basin is no different
in this regard. Notice the new infrastructure that has been put in
Thursday Flood Warnings: !
Friday Morning Flood Warnings: READ THIS
Some Storm Damage Reports in Seattle Area
Current River Level Data:(as of Friday Morning, most river levels
are decreasing or rising only very slowly and will shortly decrease).
Use the Reload Page feature of your browser if the data do not
read 09 Feb 1996.
At 7 am the morning of Friday Feb 9, the Willamette river in Portland
overflowed the lowest point of the Sea Wall. CNN coverage can
for daily and monthly level reports Notice the large fluctuations
since November 1 on virtually all rivers. This is related to
significant wet periods over this time interval followed by cold
The Flood of Late December 1964:
- Significant Snowfall and cold temperatures occurred in
- Around december 19th, the weather warmed dramatically and almost
a foot of rain fell over the next 5--7 days
- Snow in the Western Cascades melted very rapidly and the runoff
was greatly exacerbated due to the frozen ground
- There were fewer flood control dams on the Willamette River
system than there are now
- Major flooding occurred up and down the Willamette; Downtown
Salem was inundated with 10 feet of water. The Willamette was at the tip of the
in Downtown Portland
- The Flood of 1964 was characterized as the 100 year flood
What's different between 1964 and 1996:
The Flood of 96:
- Significant increase in logging in the local watersheds.
This increases runoff as well as debris clogs in the river systems.
- A significant increase in development along the river systems.
An example would be McNary Estates in Keizer Oregon,
which had to be evacuated and
which totals several million dollars worth of homes.
- Significant increase in fish hatcheries along the river systems
for purposes of stabilizing a healthy fish population. Large
floods are a serious problem
More Images and
Information from Oregon State University Climate Service
- Approximately 6--12 inches has of rain has fallen over
Western Oregon from Feb 5--7.
- River systems were already fairly full from the
significantly above average rain which has fallen since Nov 1.
This was not the case in 1964.
- Heavy mountain snow in late January combined with 3--4 day cold
spell in early February produced frozen ground conditions, conducive
for massive runoff should the temperature warm up.
- Well, its about 65 degrees currently in Eugene for Feb 8(!) and
so the temperature has warmed dramatically causing a rapid rise in
the freezing level and lots of runoff in the mountains
- Rapid runoff combined with heavy logging activity over the last
30 years results in above average sediment and debris loads which
only makes the problem worse.
- Sediment load on dams can represent a point of failure and hence
dams have no choice but to let the water through.
Flood News Coverage
- The incredible volume of water that is currently stored
in the ground would greatly increase the damage done if any earthquake
were to occur now. Essentially, the ground would quickly liquify
(hell, its practially there already) thus amplifying the waves
generated by crustal motion.
How the Fish Hatcheries
fared in the flood
The information on this page comes from the Army Corp of Engineers,
The National Weather Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,
and CNN. The words are wrapped around
the information for purposes of using this material for today's
lecture in Environmental Studies 202: Natural Sciences, at the
University of Oregon.
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