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1894 Portlanders To Metro Area: It Could Be Worse

People in boats and walking through flood waters at SW Front Ave and Morrison St., 1894.

People in boats and walking through flood waters at SW Front Ave and Morrison St., 1894.

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2004-002.7772 

The heavy rain drenching northwest Oregon and southwest Washington could continue for the next few days.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the area through Wednesday. As OPB’s Kristian Foden-Vencil points out, a flood could spring up from Johnson Creek in Portland.

Water levels are about 9 feet high as of Monday morning. Flood stage is 11 feet. Evacuations happen at 12 feet and the forecast calls for almost 15 feet by Wednesday.

The Willamette also has a flood warning in effect. Forecasts project the river could swell as high 11 feet on Wednesday. However, that falls quite short of a major flood stage, which occurs at 28 feet.

But imagine water levels in the river rising to 33.5 feet. That’s the challenge Portlanders faced in June 1894. Streets in the city transformed into rivers as the flood swelled to encompass 250 square blocks.

Scene at Ankeny and West Park streets during flood, 1894.

Scene at Ankeny and West Park streets during flood, 1894.

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2004-002.7771

Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon Encyclopedia paints a surreal picture of life during this time:

[The surging water] knocked out public utilities, warehouses, and docks. Two drawbridges were stuck open, limiting travel between the east and west sections of the city. Businesses sold merchandise from their second-floor windows or operated from boats floating on city streets.

Although 1894 Portlanders might scoff at this week’s weather, it’s still turning into a challenging event. Here’s some tips from officials on how to stay safe when leaving your home. 

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