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Wicked weather hits

H&N photos by Gary Thain
High water Friday closed Main Street to east and westbound traffic between Spring Street and Michigan Avenue.

December 31, 2005 by DYLAN DARLING H&N Staff Writer

Klamath County officials are telling people who live near the banks of the Sprague and Williamson rivers to get ready to head for high ground.

The warning came Friday as rising water around Southern Oregon and Northern California covered roadways, causing delays and detours for motorists. Heavy rains and high winds lashed both sides of the border and triggered a landslide that closed both lanes of Interstate 5 over the Siskiyou Summit.

I-5 was closed between Hilt, Calif., and Ashland, first due to flash flooding, and then due to a series of landslides, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming. The roadblock caused streams of travelers to pass through Klamath County on highways 58, 97 and 140. U.S. Highway 101 was closed by fallen trees and mud south of Crescent City, Calif.

Northbound lanes of I-5 reopened Friday evening, but southbound lanes were expected to be closed until dawn today.

As of Friday night, the National Weather Service predicted rain through the weekend and a chance of rain or snow through next week. At Kingsley Field, 1.3 inches of rain fell Friday, and residents throughout the Klamath area battled flooded basements, property and roads.

“Apparently it is just going to rain, rain, rain for the next several days - that's not good,” said Bill Thompson, Klamath County emergency manager. “The warning signs are out there.”

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Friday for the Sprague River near Beatty, and flood warnings also were issued for the Klamath, Rogue, Umpqua and other rivers around Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Rivers were expected to crest between Friday night and today as the downpour eased, but a new storm system is expected Sunday.

The Sprague River was expected to swell past flood stage tonight, and the high water should then move its way down river and into the Williamson in the next three days.

On Friday, emergency officials said that people who live near the Sprague and Williamson rivers should make evacuation plans if they live where water could threaten their homes. They also should stop by the fire station in downtown Chiloquin to tell officials where they plan to go in case of a flood.

Officials planned to meet at 1 p.m. today to determine if an incident command post needs to be set up.

Sprague River resident Alice Carson watched the water closely Friday, as did the Klamath County sheriff's deputies who have been patrolling the valley.

Although Carson's home and market are safe from flood waters, her campground on the banks of the Sprague about halfway between Sprague River and Chiloquin could be submerged.

“We have all the makings of a flood,” said Carson, who has lived on the river for 30 years.

The Sprague and Williamson flooded most recently in the winter of 1996-97, which county officials say was the worse flooding since both topped their banks in 1964. Carson said high waters also damaged homes on the Sprague in 1982.

While county officials focused flood planning efforts on the Sprague and Williamson, Friday's pounding rain caused problems around the county in other spots.

One was in Marjorie Walker's front yard on North Poe Valley Road.

A deluge of water cascaded down the hillside behind her home, filling the pasture in front of it and covering the roadway.

“Out the back of my house looks like Niagara Falls,” she said.

Sheriff Tim Evinger said deputies and road work crews had three pages listing problems, including a power pole leaning dangerously low on Lakeshore Drive, high water on Highway 140 and plugged drains and culverts.

“It has now expanded the problem into town,” Evinger said.

In Klamath Falls, flooding closed Main Street at the underpass near Spring Street, Owen Street at Merit's Appliance, Adams Street, Division Street at Shasta Way and Shasta Way at Sixth Street and Lark Street.

Officials were in “triage” mode, handling the situations with the most danger first, Evinger said.

- Jeff Barnard of the Associated Press contributed to this report




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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