Storm burst leaves little damage

A front-end loader pushes water and debris off Birch Creek Road on Friday after a thunderstorm dumped an inch and a half of rain, causing flash flooding in the Pilot Rock area.

Pilot Rock weathered a deluge Friday that swelled surrounding creeks and flooded a few homes.

The National Weather Service in Pendleton reported 1.5 inches of rain covered the small city south of Pendleton in just 45 minutes. But Tuesday only some mud, rock and debris remains behind.

Pilot Rock Rural Fire Protection District Capt. Jeff Hemphill reported Friday that flood waters affected several homes and barns in the east and west Birch Creek road areas, including rushing into two basements, though there was no major structural damage. Fire Division Chief Richard Hemphill, father of Jeff Hemphill, said about the worst he saw was water that rose to close to 3 feet in a crawl space beneath one house.

“We pumped that out,” he said, “so it didn’t really hurt anything.”

Richard Hemphill said it looked like a weather front from the southwest collided with another less than mile south of the Pilot Rock. “The hard part of that rainfall was fairly contained,” he said, “perhaps not more than half a mile wide at the really intense part.”

While the downpour drenched some areas, Hemphill said he heard from people on the north side of Pilot Rock who claimed they barely used their windshield wipers.

He also said in 42 years of living in Pilot Rock this was probably the third time he has seen this kind of spring storm. On the upshot, he said, it did not last long.

Pilot Rock resident John Taylor said he serves on a Neighborhood Watch that received the alert about the bad weather. “It did rain hard,” he said, but most people were able to go about their business and the heavy rain did not seem to affect the city significantly.

The freshet also made some roads treacherous. Hemphill said one quarter-mile stretch of East Birch Creek Road was overrun with a foot of water.

Umatilla County emergency manager Jack Remillard said he checked out Yellow Jacket and West Birch creeks on Friday and saw some mud washed over roads, but there was no damage. But he said flooding took out a guardrail and possibly some pavement along a portion of Highway 395 just west of Pilot Rock. He said Oregon Department of Transportation had better take a look at it.


Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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