An Oregon Department of Transportation representative said Wednesday that there was no timeline for the re-opening of flooded portions of Highway 34 just outside Corvallis.
On Tuesday, ODOT closed Highway 34 between Colorado Lake Drive and Northwest Van Buren Avenue at First Street and the bypass at Highway 99W is closed in both directions.
Angela Beers Seydel, a public information officer with ODOT, said ODOT had a driver out evaluating the closed portion of the road at 5 a.m. Tuesday, and an approximately two-mile stretch of the highway was submerged, with water as deep as three feet in places.
“It doesn’t always look like it, but it’s moving really, really fast,” she said.
She said ODOT has no predictions for when the highway could be reopened and added that once the water clears road crews will need to clear debris and evaluate the structure of the road to make sure the floodwaters haven’t washed out the ground supporting the road. If needed, road crews may need to make repairs before the road can reopen, she said.
“It’s not ending anytime soon,” she said.
Amanda Bowen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Portland office, said the Willamette River at Corvallis likely crested sometime early Wednesday afternoon, and would begin slowly receding moving forward. She said the river would likely recede below flood level by 5 p.m. Thursday, however, she added water would still be much higher than normal at that point.
Bowen said the river crested at about 32.8 feet, which was just short of what would be considered moderate flooding at that point of the river: 33 feet. Minor flooding on the Willamette at Corvallis starts at 30 feet. Bowen said Friday afternoon, before the heavy rain started, the Willamette River at Corvallis was at 16 feet.
Bowen said the forecast calls for additional rain for the area, but the rain will be more typical for this time of year.
“It won’t be anything like what we saw that caused this flooding,” she said. “(The river) will come down slowly but we don’t expect additional flooding once it comes down.”
ODOT warned that alternative routes near Corvallis would see heavy traffic.
Beers Seydel said ODOT doesn’t have any metrics for how bad traffic has been on Highway 20 between Corvallis and Albany.
“We know its heavy,” she said. She asked that people be patient with other drivers amid the heavy traffic.
“They don’t want to be there with you, they want to be on their normal commute. It’s stressful for everyone.”
She added that ODOT has placed signs at I-5 warning of the closure and along Highway 34 before the closure.
During the evening rush hour on Tuesday, congestion was extremely heavy on Highway 20. Vehicles in Albany waiting to get over the Lyon Street bridge to Benton County were stacked bumper to bumper past the Pacific Boulevard overpass down to southeast Davidson Street.
Shawn Collins, program manager with the Housing Opportunities Action Council, said Wednesday that the Room at the Inn Women’s Shelter and the Corvallis Men’s Shelter were both reopening Wednesday on an emergency basis to help homeless people who had been displaced due to flooding.
A homeless woman had to be rescued from near the confluence of the Willamette and Marys rivers in Corvallis, and two homeless residents had to be rescued from Simpson Park in Albany due to rising floodwaters on Wednesday.
Collins said remaining open will be evaluated daily based on weather and availability of staff.
Besides Highway 34, numerous other roads in the mid-Willamette Valley were closed on Wednesday, including Springhill Drive in North Albany.
Linn County had about a dozen roads that were closed due to flooding, and another handful where residents were urged to use caution due to high water. For more information, go to http://www.co.linn.or.us/Roads/RoadClosures.asp.
Benton County had nearly 10 roads closed on Wednesday, and several others with water over the roadway. For more information, go to www.co.benton.or.us/boc/page/wednesday-april-10-flooding-and-high-water-updates.