An atmospheric river set to hit Oregon over the coming days could drop up to 12 inches of rain in the wettest areas of the region, raising the potential for flooding and landslides.
A series of wet storms will bring an increased threat of flooding and debris flows to parts of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington over the next several days, forecasters said Wednesday.
Between Wednesday afternoon and Friday, the storms, being referred to as an “atmospheric river,” are set to drop up to 3 inches of rain in the lowland valleys, as many as 5 inches along the coast and possibly 12 inches in the Coast Range and in the Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.
November and December are typically the rainiest months for the region, said David Bishop, a meteorologist with the weather service, so the storms aren’t too outside the norm, but he advised the public to help the region be prepared.
“We’ve had some breezy conditions over the past couple weeks, which have probably brought down small limbs and leaves and other things that could block storm drains,” Bishop said. “If people have the time and ability to clear those out, that would help mitigate some of the urban street flooding we see with this type of rain.”
The impressive rain amounts will deliver a rising threat of flooding for rivers and creeks as well, according to the weather service, especially on the Grays River near Rosburg, Washington, the Wilson River near Tillamook, the Trask River near Tillamook and the Nehalem River near Foss.
Smaller creeks and tributaries could also overtop their banks, forecasters said, and people who live in flood-prone areas should keep an eye on their region’s river forecasts.
“The big message with this outlook is to keep an eye on the weather and river forecasts this week,” the weather service said. “If the threat of flooding affects you, this is a great time to review your action plan in case flooding occurs.”
The weather service also warned of potential for debris flows and mudslides, particularly in areas that have recently burned in wildfires. Residents near the burn scars of the Lionshead, Beachie Creek and Riverside fires should pay attention to any unstable slopes.
But landslides can occur away from burn scars as well, Bishop said, pointing to a mudslide late last month near the town of Meglar, Washington, well away from any areas that recently burned.
“Landslides, especially when it comes with rain and the ground is already saturated, are possible not just in and around where fires have burned,” Bishop said.
Don Hamilton, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said crews from the agency have been preparing and would be moving staff to known trouble spots, clearing downed trees from roadways and responding to any new problems that pop up once the rain arrives.
“We have crews that will be on 24/7 through Thanksgiving,” Hamilton said. “Our crews are on high alert.”
As with all inclement weather, experts said drivers should slow down and give themselves extra time to complete their trips.
— Kale Williams; kwilliams@oregonian.com; 503-294-4048; @sfkale
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