UMATILLA COUNTY — Tona Clements sat in her car with her dog, Little Man, at 9 a.m. Friday, watching the flood waters begin to recede from her neighborhood on the west side of Echo. She pointed to the water mark on a stump showing the water had been roughly 8 inches higher in the early morning hours when she evacuated.

“I was asleep and the cops came, bam bam bam on my door,” she said. “I just got out of there, because they said, ‘It’s coming!’”

Some of her neighbors were driving through the water in pickup trucks, but she didn’t think her smaller car would make it through. A quarter-mile down Oregon Trail Road, waters covered that road, too, causing most non-pickup drivers to turn around.

“It’s never flooded like this before,” she said.

That was the refrain from several people who stopped to say hi to Clements. Lloyd Piercy, who was going to check on his daughter’s home, said the last comparable flood was in 1996.

Annette Kirkpatrick, manager of the Hermiston Irrigation District, said flood waters had overtopped district’s gates all along the Umatilla River. She said the flooding was far worse than last year.

“Even ‘96 wasn’t as bad as this,” she said.

The district received funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair damage from the April 2019 flood, and Kirkpatrick said it was a good thing they hadn’t finished the repairs yet, because they would need to be redone now anyway.

On the east side of Echo, where water lapped up the embankment of the railroad tracks, Shannon and Norman Rhodes were wading through thigh-deep water in rubber boots, carrying plastic totes of belongings. They were helping Shannon’s mother, Geri Root, move items out of her flooded home.

“I’ve lived here since 1964 in this house, and this is the worst it’s been,” Shannon said.

Norman said he was glad everyone was safe — that was the important thing.

“Everything here is materialistic,” he said.

Umatilla County Commissioner Bill Elfering said 25 to 30 families had been displaced in Echo. The Echo City Council met early Friday morning to declare a state of emergency, echoing the county’s declaration.

City Administrator David Slaght, who said on Friday he’d been up since 3 a.m., said Echo School was offering shelter to anyone who needed it, but only had one taker so far. They have cots, but were looking for some bedding to go with them.

At Echo Community Church, food donations poured in and the church offered breakfast, lunch and dinner Friday to anyone who wanted it, and planned to offer at least breakfast and dinner Saturday.

Slaght gave kudos to the church, the school district, and to Echo Rural Fire Department and others who evacuated people from their homes before the floods hit.

“I believe many lives were saved,” he said.

He asked residents to be cautious about not returning too early to their flooded homes, and noted that there was likely contaminants in the flood water.

In Stanfield about 8:30 a.m., people flocked to see the flooding along the intersection of Hoosier Road and Stanfield Meadows Road. Some were debating about whether to brave wading through the flood water to check on the nearby storage units that appeared to be flooded. Water also surrounded the Stanfield Moose Lodge, but no one was there yet to unlock the door and check what damage may have occurred inside.

At the Interstate 84 interchange between Stanfield and Echo, an Oregon Department of Transportation vehicle blocked the westbound on-ramp to the interstate, and a sign stated the road leading down to Echo to be used by Echo residents only.

From the Pilot Travel Center near the interchange, it was clear why the interstate was closed. Less than a mile to the west, several semitrucks were partially submerged in flood waters covering the interstate.

Hermiston mostly avoided the flooding, other than floodwaters washing through Riverfront Park, the Oxbow Trail and Orchard Avenue along the park. Friday afternoon, Umatilla River Road was closed from Bensel Road to Cooney Lane.

To the east of Stanfield, flooding got steadily worse heading toward Pendleton.

Angela Cossitt lives on Birch Creek Road with her boyfriend, two children, cousin and niece. She said that at 9 a.m. Friday, a sheriff’s deputy knocked on her door and let her know it was time to evacuate.

“We’re not sure where we’re going to go,” Cossitt said.

She parked her car on a nearby hill, and hopes her boyfriend’s truck can brave whatever waters they’ll need to drive through when necessary.

The sheriff’s office stated this morning that Echo Meadows, Stanfield Meadows, Reith Road and Theislen Road are all currently closed, along with Highway 207. According to the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, any roadway to and from Echo is closed due to high floodwaters.

“The backyard is starting to fill up from the ground,” she added.

At 11 a.m., she said her neighbor’s house across the street was surrounded by at least 2 feet of water.

County Commissioner John Shafer said Friday morning that marine deputies from the sheriff’s office headed out to help people in the Reith area.

Umatilla County Fire District 1 issued a boil water notice for all homes and businesses served by private wells in the Stanfield and Echo areas. City water is still OK to use, the district stated, but anyone on a well should drink bottled water or bring their tap water to a full rolling boil for at least three minutes before drinking.

The district also noted that a staging area for Stanfield residents, who have been evacuated, is set up at the Stanfield fire station. Fire district personnel performed multiple rescues from homes and vehicles on Friday morning.

— East Oregonian reporter Jessica Pollard contributed to this report.

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