Wednesday’s snowstorm followed by Thursday’s thaw buoyed Baker County streams, but the rises were modest compared with the flooding that occurred in Pendleton and other parts of Umatilla County.
The Umatilla River topped its banks on the east side of Pendleton and on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, forcing some residents to evacuate Thursday. The river also flooded near Hermiston, forcing the closure of Interstate 84 Friday.
Sections of several state highways also were closed Friday due to flooding or landslides.
In Baker County, meanwhile, conditions were comparatively benign.
Although the temperature jumped to 50 degrees Thursday and 52 Friday at the Baker City Airport, following a high of just 31 during Wednesday’s day-long snowstorm, rivers stayed far below flood stage as the new snow melted.
The Powder River in Baker City rose from an average of about 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Wednesday to a peak of 97 cfs at 11:15 p.m. Thursday.
But the river receded on Friday to below 62 cfs.
Minimum flood stage on the Powder is 667 cfs. Thursday’s peak was well below the river’s flow during summer, when it swells to 300 cfs or above with water released from Phillips Reservoir to irrigate crops.
Baker County Roadmaster Noodle Perkins said a couple of inches of water flowed over a section of Miles Bridge Road near Keating on Thursday, but otherwise no flooding or other weather-related problems were reported on county roads following the snowstorm.
Allen Jensen, manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Baker City maintenance station, said there has been minor rockfall on the Dooley Mountain Highway, but no major issues anywhere in Baker County.
The worst flooding was reported in Umatilla County, where the Umatilla River rose from about 1,000 cfs on Wednesday to a peak of 19,200 cfs on Thursday night.
The Umatilla had receded to about 14,000 cfs by Friday afternoon.
The National Weather Service also issued a flood warning for the Grande Ronde River at Perry, just west of La Grande.
Post-storm rises on Baker County streams were much less severe.
The Powder River at Hudspeth Lane, in Sumpter Valley about 22 miles west of Baker City, rose steadily on Thursday from about 21 cfs to 75 cfs Friday around 7:15 a.m.
The Burnt River at Huntington rose from 94 cfs Wednesday evening to 121 cfs Friday afternoon.
The North Fork of the Burnt River near Unity increased from about 25 cfs Thursday to 105 cfs Friday afternoon.
The biggest rise was on the North Powder River, which drains from the east side of the Elkhorn Mountains, flows through North Powder and then joins the Powder River just east of the town.
The North Powder River rose from 100 cfs early Thursday to 507 cfs Friday.