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Flood threat rises in county

 December 29, 2005, by DYLAN DARLING

County officials Wednesday urged people who live along the Sprague and Williamson rivers to be alert for lowland flooding.

Near Beatty, the Sprague is expected to rise to 7 1/2 feet today, a half a foot below flood stage. Water also could be closeto or past flood stage on the Williamson.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for the two rivers Wednesday, the first in its three warning levels about flood danger.

“It looks like we will have to monitor this very closely,” said Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown.

Wednesday afternoon, Brown and fellow Commissioner John Elliott met with Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, County Emergency Manager Bill Thompson and other officials to plan for a potential evacuation call for residents along the Sprague and to protect a cluster of homes on the Williamson.

Although there are a number of houses along the Sprague, they are “too far apart for us to stage a flood fight,” Thompson said. Instead, officials call for a voluntary evacuation when water gets high.

Meanwhile things are different at a collection of homes near where the Williamson passes under Modoc Point Road. The homes are nestled by a bend in the river, close enough together that there is the possibility of putting up a wall of sandbags to hold back flood waters.

The officials were talking from first-hand experience when they outlined their plans.

“We do have an advantage - we have seen this before,” Thompson said.

In the winter of 1996-97 a similar string of weather - snow, snow, more snow and then rain - caused the first severe flooding on both rivers since 1964. The flooding was the worst during the first week of January.

On Jan. 4, Oregon Army National Guard troops in the area for drills helped residents who lived in the 15 to 18 homes in the neighborhood on the Williamson pack and stack sandbags to keep flood waters back, although there was a limited supply of sandbags because the county doesn't see flooding often. Sand came from the Klamath Tribes' Kla-Mo-Ya Casino construction site.

The flooding resulted in $335,000 worth of damage. Five homes were destroyed by flood waters, 11 received major damage and 30 received minor damage. County commissioners called a state of emergency.

A check of the inventory shows that the county has 3,600 sandbags on hand, leftovers from after the 1996-97 flooding.

“Which is frankly not that many,” Thompson said.

Officials said residents can purchase sandbags from hardware stores, although supplies are limited. Sand would cost about $5 per bag.

Although now National Guard training is planned for this weekend, 15 to 20 troops “could be mustered” if needed, said Cpl. Shawn Richards, rural patrol team leader.

Last week, Evinger and Richards flew over the Sprague River Valley to check on water levels.

“It's very hard to tell where the river is and where it isn't,” Richards said.


Forecasters predict a break in the rainy weather this weekend and an easing of flooding danger. For now, officials will be watching the weather and hoping there is not a repeat of 1996-97.

“Hopefully the breaks are going to come to us, but the ground is pretty saturated,” Evinger said.





Page Updated: Saturday March 31, 2012 01:13 AM  Pacific

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