Flooding closes highways along Oregon Coast

By Kristian Foden-Vencil (OPB)
Dec. 5, 2023 10:01 p.m. Updated: Dec. 6, 2023 3:43 p.m.
High water floods a portion of Highway 101 in Tillamook, Ore., Monday, Dec. 5, 2023, in this photo from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

High water floods a portion of Highway 101 in Tillamook, Ore., Monday, Dec. 5, 2023, in this photo from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Oregon Department of Transportation / X

Flood warnings, watches and advisories remained in place for much of western Oregon Wednesday morning, as heavy rain has pummeled the Pacific Northwest for days. The National Weather Service reported the “atmospheric river” over the area had stalled, but flooding issues could continue through Wednesday night.

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Meanwhile, at least one person in Oregon drowned during the flooding. According to Portland Fire & Rescue, the person drowned in Johnson Creek in Southeast Portland on Monday morning.

On the coast, the emergency manager for Tillamook County, Randy Thorpe, said Tuesday morning alone the area saw 5 inches of rain.

“It’s been raining continuously since last Friday,” Thorpe said. “We have five rivers that come through Tillamook County and drop into Tillamook Bay. They’ve all reached bank level.”

The sheer volume of water means storm drains are being overwhelmed, causing some localized home flooding, particularly in Rockaway Beach.

“The weather service has been doing regular briefing so we can get our questions answered,” Thorpe said.

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Several roads have been flooded. High tides temporarily closed U.S. Highway 101 at Route 26, south of Seaside, on Tuesday.

Water levels had receded enough Wednesday morning to allow traffic on the 101 through Seaside. But highways 101 and 6 remained closed due to high water in Tillamook.

The Oregon Department of Transportation urged drivers to remain cautious while traveling around the state this week as rain continues.

On Monday, overnight winds of 60 miles per hour blew many tree branches onto power lines, causing outages. Crews around the region have been busy since the heavy rain moved in.

Fire departments are prepared for water rescues and patrolling roads. Of particular focus are a couple of RV parks in flood-prone areas of Tillamook.

But Thorpe said he’s seen worse. “It floods every year. But luckily this year there isn’t any snowpack up high that could melt.”

At least three school districts along the Oregon Coast shuttered for the day Tuesday and Wednesday because of flooding and road closures.

The atmospheric river has brought heavy rain, flooding and warm winter temperatures to the entire Pacific Northwest, closing rail lines, schools and roads. Several cities in western Washington reported record-high temperatures and rainfall totals early Tuesday.

Related: High temps shut down mountain snow in Central Oregon, for now

This article includes reporting by the Associated Press.

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