Sunriver flood situation improves; wind is next

NWS extends flood warning, advisory as more storms threaten

Flood waters continue to rise

SUNRIVER, Ore. - A dry spell helped Sunriver officials make progress on flooding in areas of the resort community Saturday, though strong winds hit the area and more storms moving toward Oregon keep the threat of more rising water across much of the High Desert.

The National Weather Service on Sunday morning revised the timing for its wind advisory to be from 4 p.m. Sunday to 1 p.m. Monday. Forecasters said the winds would increase in the afternoon and be the strongest from late evening into Monday morning, predicting sustained 20-35 mph winds and gusts to 45-55 mph..

But Bend Airport already had south-southwest winds gusting as high as 54 mph Saturday afternoon. Gusts reached 36 mph at Redmond Airport Saturday evening.

Sunriver Fire Department spokesman Jim Bennett reported improving conditions from the situation that closed some streets and made for difficult travel on others in recent days.

In "the area of Timber/Tamarack/Modoc/Imnaha there is NO water flow," Bennett said Saturday afternoon.

"We do have a couple of new areas on the north side where there is some water flowing from the golf course, but nothing as significant as the last couple of days," he added.

Bennett said a few new houses have been affected by flood waters reaching their landscaping or garages, but otherwise, water levels were dropping in a break from the rainfall that caused rapid melting of recent heavy snowfall.

"Since it's supposed to turn to snow, that will, for at least a period of time, reduce the runoff," Bennett said.

The dry day has ended the road closures and also stopped any signs of water flowing through a culvert under the Burlington Northern- Santa Fe Railroad tracks, said Brooke Snavely of the Sunriver Owners Association.

"Most of the water has percolated into the ground, except in the deeper pools, which have shrunk some" Snavely said, adding that water surrounding a home on Nine Iron Lane was pumped away.

"The next concern is strong winds that may topple trees weakened by flooding or scouring of soil from around root systems," he said, adding that officials are "unsure how much moisture area soils can absorb before it runs off again. Everything is muddy, if not covered in water."

Sandbags are still available to Sunriver homeowners at the SROA Public Works facility, Snavely said, adding that crews remain "on call and ready if conditions deteriorate."

The National Weather Service in Pendleton extended a flood warning for southern Deschutes Count another 24 hours, to 10 a.m. Sunday. Forecasters said the next in a series of storms will move through the region with periods of heavy rain, possibly dropping up to three-quarters of an inch in places.

Snow levels that were rising to about 7,000 feet are expected to drop back to around 4,000 feet on Sunday, ahead of another storm system expected on Monday.

A flood advisory for most of the rest of the High Desert also was extended another 24 hours, to 2 p.m. Sunday, with minor flooding possible as more rain moves through the area, keeping streams and creeks full and running fast.

"The ground is very saturated, so little of the rain will soak in, with ponding of water on roads and in low-lying areas," the advisory stated.

It offered a reminder to not drive into areas where the water covers the roads, as "the water depth may be too great to allow your car to cross safely. Move to higher ground."

"Flood waters are usually deeper than they appear," the NWS warned. "Just one foot of flowing water is powerful enough to sweep vehicles off the road. When encountering flooded roads, make the smart choice: Turn around, don't drown."

Initial assessments completed Friday night showed 37 homes have had some flood impact, ranging from water in homes' living areas to landscaping destroyed by flood waters, Bennett said.

"At this moment, no other homes are immediately threatened," he said, "and water flow has subsided and pumping efforts have removed a lot of the standing water."

Several pumps were brought in to help move the water out, and Bennett said no evacuations have been needed.

South Imnaha Drive was closed to all vehicles, as crews continued to place sandbags around homes and divert water flow to low-lying areas.

Other affected areas of Sunriver included Timber, Tamarack and Juniper lanes, Muir Court, Deer Lane, East Butte, Shamrock, Cherrywood, Modoc, Imnaha, Winners Circle and Nine Iron Lane.

"It's very unusual for our area -- because we are up so high, we usually don't have these high of temperatures this time of year and the runoff," homeowner John Eckholt said Friday as he worked to protect his home.

"We thought we were out of the woods," Eckholt said, "but then again yesterday (Thursday) afternoon it started running again -- and then this morning it's really coming down."

Here's the full text of a news release issued Friday afternoon by Lt. Scott Shelton, Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue coordinator:

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office is issuing this warning to advise area residents that following conditions may exist throughout Deschutes County for the next 24 hours:

  • Melting snow and steady rain fall will continue to raise rivers and streams
  • Numerous areas throughout the county currently have issues with ponding. (ponding is the collection of water in low areas)
  • Deschutes County Search and Rescue Teams (24 volunteers) are completing flood assessments in the following areas, Deschutes River Woods, LaPine , Sisters and the Skyliners road area.
  • SAR Volunteers and DCSO Deputies have been traveling roadways and going door to door in some areas.
  • Numerous roads throughout the county have standing water that may make driving conditions hazardous
  • The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office has stockpiled filled sandbags at the Riverwoods Country Store Located at 19745 Baker Road.
  • The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office has stockpiled filled sandbags at La Pine Fire Station in La Pine.
  • In Partnership with the City of Sisters the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office has sandbags and sand available at the Sisters City Hall.
  • The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, Deschutes County Sheriff's Office Emergency Manager and the Deschutes County Road Department are working with Sunriver Community to attempt to mitigate flooding issues in that community.
  • The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office will continue to provide updates as the situation changes.
  • Community members are reminded to please utilize the Deschutes County 911 Center non -emergency number of 541 693-6911 for non-life threatening emergencies.

Earlier Friday, high water was causing issues at a couple homes, on Mohawk and Cherokee roads in Deschutes River Woods, south of Bend.

Meanwhile, the Deschutes County Road Department reported Friday morning it has closed two stretches of Darlene Way, a low-volume gravel road in La Pine, due to washouts. Closure signs were placed and drivers were urged to avoid the area if possible. Repairs will be made after the water recedes, officials said.

But the biggest problems continued to be in the northeast part of Sunriver, where sandbags first were deployed on Wednesday night to cope with rising water running off a nearby field.

The Sunriver Owners Association, police and fire departments and Sunriver Environmental LLC developed a strategy to divert and pump water out of the area as more rain and snow melt causes any issues, Bennett said.

About five homes off Timber Drive in the resort community had water up to their foundation stemwalls by Wednesday evening and two garages were flooded, Snavely said.

Bennett said the runoff was in the area of Timber, Tamarack and Juniper lanes as over a foot of snow melted in an open field south of Penhollow Lake, with rain also falling.

The backed-up water began to flow under west and under the embankment of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, moving west into Sunriver, Bennett said Wednesday night.

"Owners who have lived here 15 years have never seen standing or flowing water in their yards," Snavely said.

Earlier, a Sunriver Environmental LLC truck was siphoning water from a garage, Snavely said.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas in Seattle said water was on the railroad's right of way and both sides of the tracks, but inspectors had found no sign the roadbed was washed away.

Inspectors were running ahead of trains, which were going through the area at about 10 mph.

Sunriver Police Chief Marc Mills said the water came up quickly, forming a "creek" where none existed before.

"It's not raining at the minute," Mills said late Wednesday afternoon, adding that they have "got a little time before they'd have to move out."

Earlier Wednesday in Sunriver, Beaver Drive in the area of the SHARC aquatic center, as well as the facility's parking lot, were closed due to flooding Wednesday morning, police and public works officials advised. Traffic was being detoured onto Ponderosa until the flooding subsides. Motorists were urged to use the Overlook entrance to access the SHARC.

Meanwhile, the city of Madras warned Wednesday that the recent heavy snowfall in Jefferson County was causing rapid snowmelt, and said the city and other agencies were "preparing for flood conditions in the city."

"In particular, areas near Willow Creek are most likely to flood, if flooding occurs," the city statement said, warning residents and businesses to "be prepared to evacuate on short notice."

"Additionally, residents should be prepared to be away from their residence for an extended time," the city advised. "Business owners need to be prepared to close their business and protect their belongings for an extended amount of time."

If flooding becomes an immediate threat, Madras plans to have sandbags available to the public at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and at Les Schwab Tire Center in Madras.

Elsewhere,  high water was reported early Wednesday afternoon on Highway 126 just east of Powell Butte, prompting a warning to be cautious but causing "no to minimum delays," according to ODOT's Trip Check; it later was cleared. High water also was reported in the late morning, on Highway 97 near milepost 150, about 12 miles south of Bend.

The NWS reported rises on many creeks across Central and North-Central Oregon, including Whychus and Tumalo creeks in Deschutes County. A mudslide was reported along Ramsey Canyon Road in southern Gilliam County.

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