Columbia River to fall below flood stage Tuesday

Weather service says it will continue to drop this week

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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After nearly three weeks, the Columbia River is expected to fall below flood stage Tuesday.

The National Weather Service announced the river was in a flood watch on March 16, as it neared the 16-foot minor flood stage. The Columbia River sat at 16.4 feet on Monday, according to the weather service, down from 16.8 feet on Sunday. The river crested at 17.6 feet at 10 p.m. on March 30.

“With the bigger rivers, like the Columbia, when it gets above flood stage, it takes long for the river for the rise, it takes longer for the river to fall,” said Laurel McCoy, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Portland. “Because all that water is coming from farther away, from snow melt in Eastern Washington and Canada, we had to wait for it all to come down. Once we started getting less snow melt and less water from the big dams up there, it’s allowed the Columbia to come back down a bit.”

The lack of rain in the last week has helped, too, McCoy said.

The weather service’s forecast calls for the Columbia to drop below the flood stage sometime early Tuesday. It will continue to drop for the rest of the week, and the weather service is forecasting the Columbia should be around 14.7 feet by Friday. It will still have a bit to go before it’s back down to normal, though.

“Typically in April, the Columbia River is around 6.8 feet,” McCoy said. “We’ve been well above normal for a few weeks now.”

Even with the weekslong flood watch, there haven’t been reports of any major damage in the area.

“We’ve heard of some flooding of trails along the river and along Sauvie Island,” McCoy said. “Other than that, we haven’t heard of any significant damage to anything. There was water close to some homes up near Longview, where they are located on the inside of the dike.”

Eric Frank, emergency management coordinator with the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, said he also heard reports of minor flooding, but not much else.

“Nothing extreme, just some pathways and docks being inundated with water,” he said.

He said he saw some flooding at lowlands near Vancouver Lake about a week and a half ago, but that’s not out of the ordinary for that area. Still, rising temperatures could mean more melting snow, and he warned residents to be prepared.

“Emergencies happen at all time,” he said. “Even if this flood warning is going away, things can still can get very dangerous very quickly. Use caution.”