IONE - A band of thunderstorms churned through western Umatilla and northeast Morrow counties Saturday, drenching the area with rain and causing power outages. The heavy downpour in Ione lasted for about 90 minutes, said Mayor Mark Bruno, and caused flash flooding through the downtown area.
"The flood control ditch was blocked at one end," Bruno said. A citizen with a bulldozer cleared the blockage and most of the flooding came because the rain fell so rapidly it backed up in the streets.
The National Weather Service didn't have precipitation figures for Ione when contacted Saturday, but did say that .7 inch fell in Hermiston in 45 minutes.
"We have heard of some flooding in the streets and water in the school in Ione," Meteorologist Gordon Hepburn said.
Bruno and his children, Luke, 14, and Mariah, 13, had left home to get a pop at the Ione Market, the mayor said. What they witnessed was just what Bruno said makes his town so special.
"We saw somebody mopping up, and we stayed to help," he said. "I would say about 50 people were out helping. We also had people from the city and the fire department. People were all over town helping out."
Bruno said the market was just purchased about a year ago by Mark and Lisa Collier and the couple had worked hard to make the grocery store vital to Ione residents. He said helping them with the flooding problem was the least the townspeople could do.
"It (flooding) seems to happen here about every 25 or 30 years," said resident Lisa Rietmann, who was helping clean up the market. "It rained and rained, just poured."
Lisa Collier said she was moved by the quick action of Ione residents.
"They put hay bales up to stop the water that was coming in," she said. "Word got around so fast. Our power went out and everybody came with generators. We didn't lose any product. The water never got high enough to touch the shelves. We'll be cleaning up later tonight and Sunday, but we'll be open as usual on Monday."
When the power went out because a transformer blew, Bruno said people got inventive in helping out in the market.
"We took power from the bank," he said. "We unplugged the ATM and had extension cords running across main street."
The power failure was also the cause of minor flooding at the school, Bruno said. He said that without electricity, the sump pumps stopped working but that was quickly remedied by the volunteers and Ione employees. The market wasn't the only place where people helped mop up the water.
"There was at least 14 inches of water in one man's shop," Bruno said of Ed Rollins' residence. "We had every shop vac in town working. We had all the fans around town going too. It was good to see everybody out working hard. It was pretty much like we always do here."
Hepburn said today's weather could hold more storms, but added that it was impossible to predict late Saturday afternoon.
"We've got a chance of showers off and on for the rest of the weekend, but it depends on where they line up," he said. "They could come across here or to the north or south. The big blob that came through Saturday is all up in central Washington now."