December marks the 50th anniversary of the Christmas Flood of 1964, during which extensive flooding of local rivers and waterways washed away more than 100 homes and businesses. The flooding resulted in 17 Oregonian lives lost and approximately $1.1 billion of damage, in today's dollars, throughout the northwest and California.
In Clackamas County alone, 155 homes were completely lost in the upper Sandy River Basin and scores of others were destroyed or incurred significant damage throughout the County.
While the 1964 event was the most devastating of its kind in recent times, our region has experienced similar flooding emergencies over the past few decades. The Willamette Flood of 1996, and the Sandy River Flood of 2011, illustrate how Clackamas County and its surrounding areas remain at continual risk.
To remind Clackamas County citizens about this historic event, our region’s topographical and meteorological vulnerabilities, and the resources the County provides to residents, Clackamas is launching a three-step flood awareness campaign aimed at better preparing all citizens for future occurrences. As a first step in the campaign, Clackamas County has released two documentaries capturing the devastation brought to our region by multiple flooding events during the last 50 years. These videos showcase the damage inflicted at the upper Sandy River Basin and the confluence of the Willamette and Clackamas Rivers.
The '64 Flood:
The Willamette-Clackamas Confluence
The '64 Flood:
The Upper Sandy River Basin
Original 16mm footage
The '64 Flood:
Delivering Mail During the Flood
The '64 Flood:
Oregon City Shopping Center
Second, Clackamas County has updated the webpage you are currently viewing. On this page, please find details about key federal and local resources, best practices for disaster planning, instructions to sign up to receive emergency communications via cell phone, and scientific information about our area's unique situation. Notably, links below contain pertinent information for Clackamas County homeowners to best prepare for flood damage through federal flood insurance programs.
Third, Clackamas County is organizing a local speaking tour for Jay Wilson, Clackamas County Hazard Mitigation Coordinator, about flood preparedness. The tour, tentatively slated for January through March 2015, will be held throughout the County with an emphasis on areas hardest hit by regional flooding. These include floodplain areas around the Clackamas, Molalla, Pudding, Salmon, Sandy, Tualatin, Willamette, and Zig Zag Rivers, as well as Abernathy, Beaver, Cedar, Johnson, and Milk Creeks. Both residential citizens and business groups will be targeted. At these events, Wilson will detail the threats facing our areas, list preparatory steps that citizens should take in the event of a flooding disaster, emphasize the importance of obtaining flood insurance, and take questions and answers from concerned members of the community.
Damage Done by Recent Floods
Flooding events during the last 50 years have ravaged parts of Clackamas County. Just some of the results of these events include:
- In the 1964 flood in Clackamas County, one man died when his house collapsed into Wildcat Creek.
- In the 1964 flood, almost forty homes near the Brightwood area alone were completely destroyed with no trace of having been there.
- In the 1964 flood, the Oregon City Shopping Center was inundated by 34.5 inches of water, with the shopping basements of JCPenney and Grants being completely submerged.
- In the 2011 flood, nearly $4 million was needed for repairs to public infrastructure that included damages to Lolo Pass Road, the Zigzag River bridge, and county Water Environment Services wastewater facilities.
- In the 2011 flood, at least 37 residential properties suffered significant bank erosion and face increased future erosion threats.
How Citizens Can Be Prepared
Flooding poses a threat to life and safety, and can cause severe damage to public and private property. Below are some links you may find helpful when preparing for flooding.
- Channel Migration Zone (CMZ) Resources - Sandy River Specific
- Clackamas County Flood Insurance Brochure - You May Need FLOOD INSURANCE!
- Clackamas County Floodplain Management
- Flood Insurance Explained
- Homeowner's Guide to Flooding
- Living With Dams: Know Your Risks
- National Flood Insurance Program
- National Floodplain Insurance Program
Homeowner policies normally do not provide coverage for flood hazards. The National Flood Insurance Program provides coverage for improved land, or the actual building structure, and contents.
- NWS Flood Safety Awareness
- Preparing for flooding
- Red Cross: Flooding
- River Staff Gauges in Upper Sandy River Basin
- Shady Dell Flood Staff Gauge on the Molalla River
- US Army Corps of Engineers How to Sandbag
River levels in Clackamas County are monitored by a network of river gauges that help us predict the when peak water levels will occur in our communities. The County also works with fire districts to provide sand bag distribution locations to assist residents in protecting their homes from flooding. There are several local area commercial sandbag providers.
Weather and Flood Forecasting Information
Land use and permits: Steve Hanschka, 503.742.4512
Land use and permits: Rebecca Ceniga, 503.742.4505
Emergency management: Jay Wilson, 503.723.4848
General information: Ellen Rogalin, Community Relations Specialist, Department of Transportation and Development, 503.742.4274
Water Environment Services - Hoodland Sewage Treatment Plant, 24596 E. Bright Ave, Welches; 503.622.5350
Sandy River Basin Watershed Council
P.O. Box 868, Sandy, OR 97055 503.668.1646
US Army Corps of Engineers
Karla G. Ellis, Project Manager, Team Leader - Regulatory Branch, 503.808.4377
Regulatory General Permit (RGP) for Sandy River Basin January 2011 Flood Response
Regulatory General Permit (RGP) Biological Opinion
Department of State Lands
Anita Huffman, 503.986.5250
Wetlands/Waterways Removal-Fill Forms & Publications
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