On the hills above the Umatilla River, balsam root and shooting stars bloomed colorfully this week in fields saturated by recent heavy rains.

What brings beauty can also bring destruction, however. During the past couple of days, rain mixed with melting snow flowed into rivers which crested, flowed over their banks and snaked into pastures, yards, outbuildings and homes.

On Wednesday morning, at his property on Cayuse River Road near the Umatilla River, Jeremy Moore had little time to admire the flowers on the hillside. Wearing heavy rubber boots, he used a shop vac to rid his house of water that had seeped in overnight. A sump pump droned as it did its work. A dirt berm blocked water from Moore’s driveway and yard, which had transformed into a lake.

Moore took a break as his English mastiff, Jake, sniffed about in the yard. Just beyond, the river rushed along at somewhere around 8,000 cubic feet per second. His flock of sheep wandered near water’s edge, seemingly oblivious to their shrinking pasture.

“When the river crested last night it came over the bank,” Moore said. “I have a couple of inches of water inside.”

He had already pulled up the laminate flooring inside the residence to allow the subfloor to dry. Moore, who has flood insurance, feels somewhat lucky. Pointing to property upriver, he said the resident had lost a shed and then a garage to the river.

Next door, Brent Hall said his house remained safe on slightly higher ground, but rising groundwater had flooded his shop. The invasion, though worrisome, caused only minor damage.

“There was 3 inches of standing water in my shop,” Hall said. “We lost some stuff in cardboard boxes. Rachael (Owen, his wife) did 11 loads of laundry.”

In another section of yard, a pump house had become an island surrounded by a lake of rising groundwater. Without the well, the family must depend on other sources of water. Hall, his wife and their children are new to the neighborhood, arriving in October.

The flooding came after heavy rains that fell over a 72-hour period starting on Sunday.

“Two to 3 inches of rain fell in the Blue Mountains,” said Joe Solomon, National Weather Service meteorologist out of Pendleton.

The rain joined snowmelt in trickles that flowed into brooks, creeks and streams and finally dumped into the Umatilla River, which eventually crested. Solomon said the crest had worked its way past Pendleton as of late Wednesday afternoon and was headed to Reith and Echo. The crest would move further along the river until it dumped into the Columbia.

“There is nothing to indicate that we’ll go back up to flood stage,” Solomon said. “There is a downward trend in river levels.”


Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0810.

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