Oregon flooding abates; authorities report body found

By The Associated Press | Updated - Feb. 9, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. | Posted - Feb. 9, 2020 at 10:33 a.m.


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PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Waters covering roads in flood-hit northeastern Oregon were starting to recede, allowing residents to return and assess the damage from weather that appears to have left one person dead.

A woman who had been missing, Janet Tobkin Conley, 62, lived in one of the areas hit by floods and her body was found Sunday by searchers and neighbors, authorities said. She appeared to have been swept away by rushing water, they said.

An approximately 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 84 south of Hermiston, Oregon, remained closed Sunday due to flood damage and authorities say it could be a week before it reopens. A detour is in place.

Oregon National Guard troops aboard two helicopters airlifted 21 people to safety on Saturday. The helicopter missions continued Sunday and volunteers also assisted flood victims.

Residents in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in northeast Oregon had to be airlifted by from their flooded homes and even were taken out in a front-end loader as rain and melting snow caused rivers to crest their banks. Some neighborhoods in Pendleton, a town of 16,000, were hit, damaging mobile homes.

Seventeen evacuees spent Friday night at the Red Cross shelter in the Pendleton Convention Center, and numerous people dropped off blankets, pillows and other comfort items, said Nadine McCrindle, the Red Cross executive director for central and eastern Oregon. Another eight people stayed at a shelter in Walla Walla, Washington.

“They'll be able to go to their homes and see what is left, if anything, and see what the damage is,” McCrindle said.

The forecast was for mostly sunny skies and no rain Sunday and Monday.

Many roads in Umatilla County, where Pendleton is the county seat, were still closed because of high water or damage, the county sheriff’s office said.

The Umatilla River crested just before 10 p.m. Thursday at more than 19 feet (5.79 meters), nearly four times the average height for that date. Rivers all around the region overran their banks.

The Umatilla County Sheriff's Office said Saturday night that it is searching for a woman who went missing near Bar M Ranch, which has had flooding in recent days.

Janet Tobkin Conley, 62, was last seen about 7 p.m. Thursday in the Bar M Ranch area, the sheriff's office said. Neighbors discovered she was missing Friday morning.

Conley is an experienced hiker and camper and is familiar with the area, the sheriff's office said.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Umatilla, Wallowa and Union counties late Friday, allowing mobilization of the National Guard.

In Washington state, there was widespread flooding in the Walla Walla Valley. Waters were receding but authorities were assessing damage in communities such as Dayton, Waitsburg and Milton-Freewater.

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