Willamette River: Highest in 14 Years

Here’s a nice graph from the USGS showing the past 15 years of water level on the Willamette River.  That’s right at the Morrison Street gauge.  Today it peaked at slightly over 17′, just a foot below flood stage.  That’s the highest the lower Willamette has been since early June of 1997.  As a result the city of Portland closed the East Bank Esplanade for the first time since it’s construction in the late 1990s.

Is it a coincidence that at the same time the Columbia is seeing its highest level in 14 years as well???  No, because the Willamette River is not REALLY flooding, but the Columbia River is.  The two rivers are connected in the northwest part of Portland, so if one rises the other one does as well.  If there was a ton of water flowing down the Willamette River you’d expect high water in Salem and Albany, but that’s not the case.  Right now the river is 13-14′ below flood stage at those two gauges.

So how high CAN the Willamette get in Portland?  Here are the numbers…

The two highest crests both occurred in June; similar setup with water coming in from major Columbia River flood events.

33.0′  June 7, 1894
30.0′  June  1 & 14, 1948 (Vanport Flood)
29.8′  December 25, 1964 (Winter Flood)
28.7′ February 2, 1890 (Winter Flood)
28.55′ February 9, 1996 (Winter Flood)

During the first 3 floods above (maybe the 4th), water flowed into downtown Portland, up to 5′ in spots during the 1894 flood.  You can find pictures around the Portland area showing this flood.  Imagine paddling a canoe down 3rd avenue or SW Oak St. on a sunny day in June (the image below)!

92 Responses to Willamette River: Highest in 14 Years

  1. W7ENK says:

    Activity is dieing off all around.
    No hope for our poser storm at this point.

    As I thought, the marine push was butting up against it, and the really heavy rain stalled out just South of OC.

    Better luck tomorrow?

  2. PaulB/Eugene says:

    Looking at GFS run tonight for this weekend….still looks like cold upper low has sights on SFO area..still placed a bit too far S for much T action in NW OR…Coos Bay may get some thunder….EUG an outside shot…….No mention of severe risk from SPC extended convective outlook…wait and see…at least some 70s here instead of 50s. If this unfolds as progged…certainly a very rare event for California in June…

  3. *BoringOregon* says:

    THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PORTLAND HAS ISSUED AN

    * URBAN AND SMALL STREAM FLOOD ADVISORY FOR…
    SOUTHWEST CLACKAMAS COUNTY IN NORTHWEST OREGON…

    * UNTIL 1045 PM PDT.

    * AT 743 PM PDT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED VERY
    HEAVY RAIN ACROSS SOUTHWEST CLACKAMAS COUNTY. THE VERY HEAVY RAIN
    WAS NEARLY STATIONARY. THE RAINFALL WILL BEGIN TO EASE OVER THE NEXT
    COUPLE OF HOURS.

  4. W7ENK says:

    Well, at least this evening’s failed thunderstorm wasn’t a total bust. There’s a rainbow-colored tornado way down under the base of it there…

    No, that’s just a rainbow.

    Nice sunset though! 🙂

  5. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    *Waits for tonight’s AFD* Considering the afternoon AFD was issued at 1:30 PM it should be out soon.

  6. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    SUNSET ALERT! WOW…. Someone is going to get some spectacular pics this evening!

  7. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Look at the rain that came into Hood River fizzle out.

    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/wxloop.cgi?rtx_n0r+/2h/

  8. MasterNate says:

    Had one cloud to cloud lighting and very decent rainfall rate right now in Molalla. Looks like a small steam flood advisory for SE Clackamas County.

  9. W7ENK says:

    It still looks SO good, but it’s all fake. 😦

  10. AdamInAumsville says:

    What’s this off the coast of the Carolinas? Looks like a tropical cyclone but I can’t find anything on it.

    http://www.goes.noaa.gov/GSSLOOPS/ecir.html

    • AdamInAumsville says:

      Moving in an odd direction too…

    • AdamInAumsville says:

      From the Charleston, SC AFD…

      LATE EVENING WATER VAPOR IMAGERY DEPICTS AN IMPRESSIVE MCS WELL OFF THE CAROLINA COAST TRACKING SOUTHWEST ALONG THE EASTERN PERIPHERY OF A STRONG UPPER LEVEL RIDGE. THE MCS AND A WEAK ASSOCIATED LOW AT THE SURFACE ARE FORECAST TO CONTINUE ON A
      SOUTHWEST TRACK…CROSSING INTO NORTHERN FLORIDA LATE TONIGHT.

    • W7ENK says:

      MSC = Mesocylone, right?

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Mesoscale Convective System. Think of a squall line.

    • AdamInAumsville says:

      MCS = Mesoscale Convective System

    • No real discussion on it as of 3 hours ago, but it sure does look interesting on satellite. We’ll see if the complex persists overnight? http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/MIATWDAT.shtml

    • Ah…got distracted by the finals and didn’t see everyone’s responses. Is that common offshore? It seem like that usually happens in the midwest, rotating around the easterly side of a high, right? Or am I off base here?

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      I looked at the satellite loop and I’m not sure I would classify that as an MCS…. Perhaps an enhanced outer band like you’d see from a typical tropical system. No doubt there are showers and storms associated with it, but an MCS? Nah… and Yeah MCS you’d find typically from Texas to just east of the Rockies of Montana or during the Summer moving around the periphery of high pressure usually from South/North Dakota, east into western Minnesota, then arching southeastward into Iowa and usually occurring during the overnight hours.

  11. W7ENK says:

    I’m willing to bet what we’re seeing right now is a repeat of that storm that we had last spring, the one that passed over main PDX, stalled and backfilled, dumping a TON of rain on NoPo, but never made it across the river. I do believe that happened because it slammed into a marine push flooding up the Columbia. This time, it’s happening to our South, so we’re the ones getting the finger!

    Light raindrops just started falling in Milwaukie.

    Temp down a degree to 56, N-NW winds increasing slightly. Almost too chilly to have the sliding door open now.

    Methinks I just lost The Game. 😥

  12. W7ENK says:

    NWS Portland – FLOOD ADVISORY, CLACKAMAS COUNTY

    http://inws.wrh.noaa.gov/weather/alertinfo/2757532

  13. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    West-Northwest winds picking up here and man are the chilly!

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      Yeah, 56 here with WNW winds. A surface temp that cold will probably cap things.

      Although, Eugene was in the mid 50s to around 60 all afternoon and they still got some action.

  14. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Mesoanalysis shows the Surface CAP just developed.

  15. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Radar trend shows as soon as anything develops they are running into an invisible brick wall which I assume is a weak marine push up the Columbia River.

    • Chuck on Mt Scott says:

      Up here, I am noticing west to east winds. And clouds seem to be turning toward the cascades as they get closer.

  16. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Cell has rapidly blown up the past 20 minutes near Aurora.. Watch this one. MUCAPE 500J/kg still in place and no CAP yet.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      60.5dbz core. Cloud tops aren’t very high for charge separation, but could be some lightning.

  17. Austin (Cornelius) says:

    But of cource it would!!! 😦
    maybe it’ll strike me tonight!! 😀

  18. Josh (Gresham) says:

    This is impressive

    • W7ENK says:

      Just watch, it’ll die just as it reaches Oregon City. Or it’ll rip in two and nail Damascus and Tigard, but miss the Metro area completely… I;ve seen it happen before!

      Right???

    • Josh (Gresham) says:

      Hahaha. Murphey’s Law? lmao

    • Josh (Gresham) says:

      Not sure why my macbook decided to put an e in there
      *Murphy’s

    • W7ENK says:

      It’s either snow in the winter or thunderstorms in the summer, but either way, I get screwed… Well, Saturday was a nice exception! 🙂

  19. Here are some photos from the last week.

    Includes: High waters on the Columbia, flowers and last night’s sunset (5.30.11)

  20. W7ENK says:

    FWIW, the sky to my S-SSE to SW is lookin’ awfully crazy!

    Kinda roily-boily up there. Lots of instability for sure, and methinks we’ve slipped under an anvil? This could get interesting… 🙂

  21. Cherie in Vernonia says:

    weird how on Wunderground they all seem to be pushing towards the center of a circle???

  22. Austin (Cornelius) says:

    We all vote for nocternal albino donkys…riiiiiiiiiigghhhhttt?????? 🙂

  23. Josh (Gresham) says:

    I really like the look of the last few slides on radar,
    This looks very promising for the eastside http://i54.tinypic.com/2zdrn2g.jpg
    While this cell could track towards maybe Beaverton

  24. Ben Randall says:

    I just looked out side and it looks like some convection firing up along the coast range ……..

    • Josh (Gresham) says:

      It looks like down the cell building down by Salem fired up over the coast range, but thats wayyyyy south of you

  25. Timmy_Supercell (Klamath Falls @ 4200') says:

    Hmmm, several CG strikes showing up almost directly over my location on that lightning map, however I haven’t heard a single rumble of thunder all day. Is there some sort of wierd sound barrier in Klamath Falls???

    • W7ENK says:

      I added K Falls as the red square at on the map. Nearest lightning strikes are ~30 – 50 miles to your NE.

      K Falls is only 12-18 miles from the CA border.

    • Timmy_Supercell (Klamath Falls @ 4200') says:

      Oh i should have check that out before posting… Well I just moved here, ya can’t blame!

  26. Cherie in Vernonia says:

    Tons of Stray Albino Donkeys on this one

  27. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Activity tries to move north, but it moves ahead of the instability axis and it weaken. This might be the case this evening too.

  28. WEATHERDAN says:

    With the river levels so high already is this upcoming warm to very warm spell bad news. As of this morning Timberline Lodge has 185 inches reported. Add to that some heavy showers the next 3 days, then add temps of 70-85 for a week or more and how high will the rivers in Portland go. My guess is up to maybe 21 feet on the the Columbia, and maybe up to 19 feet on the Willamette. Not enough for a major flood. But high enough to be a major inconvenience. Especially to the Navy ships trying to come in for Rose Festival. For the rest of us who don’t live on the rivers the heat will be welcome indeed. After just having Maycember, let’s hope we don’t have another Juneuary.

  29. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    Another strong cell in the Sherman/Gilliam County area which may be severe warned if it holds together.

  30. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    T-storm now southwest of Dallas. The first of possibly many, but may all be Woodburn-Salem south.

  31. Jesse-Orchards says:

    The 18Z GFS shows a shot at our first 90 degree day of the year in Porland on Sunday.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      Like

    • Jesse-Orchards says:

      Going from 50s to 90 with out any intermediate comfortable weather sounds crappy to me. But I’m sure most people disagree.

    • Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

      It will be a major shock to the senses for sure as I’ve posted a few times the past month it may take us a bit longer to acclimate to the warmth compared to usual, so therefore it may feel much warmer than it actually is. If that makes any sense?

    • bgmike says:

      Wouldn’t that be weird if we skipped our first 80 degree day and went strait on to 90.

    • Boydo3 N. Albany 500' says:

      And then it’ll drop right back. Seems pretty standard around here. Bout the only constant we can get used to is gray-wet for six to eight months in a row. blah

  32. Mike near Clackamas Town Center says:

    Video footage of Oaks Park Area from the flood of Feb 1996

  33. Jesse-Orchards says:

    Another great weather/history post. Keep ’em coming!

  34. Justin (Bellingham) says:

    June 1894 also happened to feature the best severe weather outbreak in Oregon state history. An F3 tornado touched down near Long Creek and killed 3 people (last tornado fatalities in Oregon) on the same day that Portland was raked with 60-70mph winds and golf ball sized hail, which obviously impacted the flood control efforts. Crazy spring.

    • W7ENK says:

      Ah, but back then it was forbidden to call anything in Oregon a “tornado”.

      I learned that from George Miller at the Aumsville tornado meeting at OMSI back in January. 😆

  35. matt in Eugene says:

    Heavy winds and lots of rain here in Eugene. The sky is dark.

  36. Rob "Wrath" S.E. Portland says:

    1894 was nuts, Son!

  37. W7ENK says:

    Cool! I was there in 1996 when the water was about an inch from spilling over the sea wall at Waterfront Park. That was a very interesting time.

    • Mike near Clackamas Town Center says:

      Oaks Park and the waterfront park on the Sellwood side as well was hit hard by the flood of 96 😦
      It took the city a long time to clean up the Oaks bottom area.

  38. bgmike says:

    1st

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