An electrical storm that hit Pendleton on October 11, 1951, dropped an inch of rain on the town and caused widespread flooding.
After a summer with very few thunderstorms, a storm reaching several miles in width and traveling northeast began about 3:20 in the afternoon and continued for an hour and 40 minutes. The fury of the storm was focused mainly within the city limits, with only a sprinkle occurring two to three miles both east and west of town.
A half inch of rain fell during the first ten minutes of the storm, drowning Southwest Emigrant Avenue at Tenth Street in several inches of water. Highway 30 in front of Eastern Oregon State Hospital was covered a foot deep, interrupting traffic, and after the storm the highway department had to use a blade to clear the road of silt.
Basements across town were flooded by water pouring off both the North and South Hills, including homes on the North Hill and along the Umatilla River levee, a garage in Sherwood Heights with “a river of water” running through it, Main Street businesses including Payless and the East Oregonian, and the Pendleton police station, which was located in the basement of City Hall.
Two to three inches of water poured into the basement of the First Christian Church, deflected from the South Main Street slope by cars parked nearby. On the Terall Ramage farm five miles from Pendleton at the foot of the Helix grade, the garage washed away and a tree blocked the front of it, the lawn was covered in silt and the family was trapped inside the home for a couple of hours. The gravel dike at the Harris Pine Mills log pond washed out when the Umatilla River rose suddenly.
But as fierce as the thunderstorm was, it was dwarfed by a storm on July 3, 1904, when two inches of rain fell on Pendleton in a 24-hour period.
Renee Struthers is the Community Records Editor for the East Oregonian. See the complete collection of Out of the Vault columns at eovault.blogspot.com