Columbia still over flood stage, but no problems

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Hey Mac, how about those river levels?

So far so good, with the Columbia rolling past Vancouver on Thursday evening at about 17.2 feet, more than a foot over the official flood stage of 16 feet.

It’s been like that for a few days and is expected to continue around 17 feet for the next several days, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service at http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=pqr&gage=vapw1&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1%22.

We’ve had only minor flooding in very low-lying areas and, as of Thursday evening, a 911 dispatcher said she’d heard of no serious problems in Clark County from flooding.

In the next month or so, officials say, the river levels will depend on temperatures and snowmelt in the multistate upper Columbia River basin, as well as rain, tides and how operators of the upriver dams deal with saving and releasing the spring runoff.

Also on Thursday, weather officials were standing by their earlier forecasts of a sunny, warm weekend.

Thursday’s high was 61 degrees with wandering dark clouds, with rain at times falling in showers in areas bathed in sunlight.

Wait, aren’t we supposed to get that in March?

But meteorologists were expecting clear skies and highs of 74 today, 84 on Saturday, 83 on Sunday and 68 on Monday.

So will the weekend’s warm temperatures melt snowpack in the upper Columbia basin and give us even higher river levels down here?

We’ll have to wait and see, officials say. The warm weekend temperatures are expected to give way to a high of 62 on Tuesday, said a NWS official based in Portland.

Our current 17-foot levels are the highest since around February 1996, when heavy rains caused large flows on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, said Chuck Orwig, a hydrologist with the NWS’s Northwest River Forecast Center.

Here are the highest crests in history for the Columbia River at Vancouver, according to a NWS website:

1: 31 feet, June 13, 1948.

2: 30.80 feet, June 1, 1948.

3: 27.70 feet, Dec. 25, 1964.

4: 27.60 feet, June 4, 1956.

5: 27.20 feet, Feb. 9, 1996.

6: 26.30 feet, June 6, 1933.

7: 26.20 feet, May 31, 1928.

8: 26 feet, June 12, 1921.

9: 25.90 feet, June 26, 1950.

10: 25.60 feet, June 16, 1903.