© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Think It Rained A Lot This Winter? The Flood Of 1996 Begs To Differ

If you think it's rained a lot this winter - you should've seen it 20 years ago.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996 floods that inundated much of northwestern Oregon and southwest Washington.

Then Portland Mayor Vera Katz asked for help piling sandbags along the Willamette River.

"At this time, right now, there is no need to evacuate downtown. So I want to put those rumors to rest, and basically say that for today and tomorrow, there will be no rumors," Katz said.

On Feb. 9, 1996, the Willamette River crested at 28 1/2 feet — more than 10 feet above flood stage. It was the river's highest level in the last 50 years.

Flooding meant evacuations near Salem and water-filled streets in Tualatin.

Parts of Tillamook County were under six feet of water with every road cut off.

Researchers say the 1996 flood taught lessons on everything from hydrology to urban planning.

<p>Freighters back up where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 11, 1996, as river commerce comes to a standstill because of flooding.</p>

Jack Smith

/

Freighters back up where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 11, 1996, as river commerce comes to a standstill because of flooding.

<p>The sandbagged seawall in downtown Portland, Ore. Friday Feb. 9, 1996. Three people died and thousands were left homeless in the floods.</p>

Jack Smith

/

The sandbagged seawall in downtown Portland, Ore. Friday Feb. 9, 1996. Three people died and thousands were left homeless in the floods.

<p>An unidentified man inspects an apartment building damaged during a mudslide Thursday, Feb. 8, 1996, in Portland, Ore., that forced 30 families to relocate.</p>

Steve Young

/

An unidentified man inspects an apartment building damaged during a mudslide Thursday, Feb. 8, 1996, in Portland, Ore., that forced 30 families to relocate.

<p>Flood waters from the Clackamas River surround a house near Carver, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 8, 1996, as torrential rains continue to raise river levels throughout Oregon.</p>

Jack Smith

/

Flood waters from the Clackamas River surround a house near Carver, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 8, 1996, as torrential rains continue to raise river levels throughout Oregon.

<p>Neighborhood streets are full of water in downtown Salem, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 8, 1996, as flood waters from Mill Creek cover the area. Heavy rains are hitting much of Oregon, causing massive flooding and landslides.</p>

Jack Smith

/

Neighborhood streets are full of water in downtown Salem, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 8, 1996, as flood waters from Mill Creek cover the area. Heavy rains are hitting much of Oregon, causing massive flooding and landslides.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Rob Manning is a news editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting, with oversight of reporters covering education, healthcare and business. Rob became an editor in 2019, following about 15 years covering schools and universities in Oregon and southwest Washington as OPB’s education reporter.