On Thursday, water from McKay Reservoir was discharged at a rate that was barely contained by McKay Creek inside the Pendleton city limits. When the Bureau of Reclamation announced it was going to have increase the outflow from the reservoir because of safety concerns, the county and city began to staff the Emergency Operations Center to prepare for flooding. On Friday, the outflow from McKay Reservoir was indeed increased and flooding occurred in southwest Pendleton along McKay Creek. The response from the county and city was immediate.

Assistance was requested from additional agencies. Public works personnel from both the city and county were mobilized and they began distributing sand bags and gravel to fill them. Police and the sheriff’s department patrolled the areas that were flooding and warned residents about the danger. Plans were put in place to house anyone who needed to evacuate. Heavy equipment was staged. The National Weather service provided a representative to the EOC and by Sunday the Green Team from the State Fire Marshal's Association arrived to begin taking over as incident commanders. Team Rubicon, a national group of trained and experienced volunteers arrived to help with damage assessment. Steps are being taken to ask the governor to declare an emergency and also request federal help from FEMA, including funding.

Of particular note are the actions of hundreds of volunteers. Most of them came from Pendleton, but I have heard of volunteers from all over the county. At one time, about 300 of them were filling sand bags. Sports teams arrived and Pendleton businesses sent their staff members out to the flood zone to help. Food and beverages were donated by local establishments.

As mayor of Pendleton, and on behalf of myself and county commissioner George Murdock, I want to express my admiration for the professionalism, initiative, and energy displayed by city and county employees, many who got by on three hours of sleep each day of the emergency. We should also be grateful for the expert response from state and federal agencies. The tremendous volunteer response reminds me that we enjoy a superior quality of life in Pendleton because so many of our citizens are willing to give up their time to help others in need.

A public meeting to discuss the emergency will be held on Wednesday night at Sherwood Heights Elementary School at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium. Information will be provided about the water levels projected to flow in McKay Creek, the remaining response efforts, and the coming recovery phase. A question and answer period will take place.

John Turner

Mayor of Pendleton

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