Body of missing Umatilla flood victim recovered


Search and rescue efforts for others in the area continue

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Authorities have reported the first death from the flood that covered much of northern Umatilla County, causing a state of emergency, this weekend.

The body of Janet Conley was recovered on Sunday morning by Search and Rescue volunteers who were canvassing the area with neighbors.

Conley, 62, was first reported as missing from the Bar M Ranch area near Pendleton by her neighbors on Saturday after the flood. Authorities said neighbors last spoke with her on Thursday evening, Feb. 6, as waters were rising in the area when she said she intended to stay in her home.

Authorities said it appeared that Conley was swept away by rushing water during the flood.

“Our sympathies go out to the family and friends of Ms. Conley in this difficult time,” said Incident Commander Dwight Johnson, Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant in a statement.

Search, rescue efforts continue

Volunteers from multiple agencies continued their efforts to help people in Umatilla County plagued by severe flood conditions Sunday. The Oregon Army National Guard deployed teams to help with rescues and SAR volunteer groups also worked on the ground.

Four more people were rescued on Sunday, according to the Oregon Emergency Management Office, bringing the total of rescues from flooded areas to 51. The Oregon Army National Guard has conducted 25 air rescues so far, with another 26 people who were rescued by SAR teams on land.

In this Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 photo, Nate Fuller and Archie Morrow await rescue on the roof of a home in Thorn Hollow outside of Adams, Ore. The pair were stranded when they attempted to rescue the elderly couple who were stuck in the house as waters from the Umatilla River began to rise. All were rescued by helicopter that evening. Severe flooding in eastern Oregon closed a major freeway on Friday, forced evacuations in low-lying areas and stranded at least one family on their roof as other parts of the Pacific Northwest also braced for more flooding and landslides. (Ben Lonergan/East Oregonian via AP)

The flood emergency

The Umatilla River began flooding late last week on Thursday, Feb. 6. Officials with the Office of Emergency Management said the waters rose quickly due to a perfect storm of higher temperatures and rain. The sudden snowpack meltdown caused the Umatilla River and other tributaries in northeast Oregon to overflow their banks late Thursday.

Emergency evacuation notices were issued Friday to people living in the northeastern part of the county. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties where severe flooding, snowmelt, erosion, and landslides have pummeled the region.

By Friday evening, Umatilla County officials confirmed at least 26 people had been airlifted out of flooded areas to safety.

Rising waters shut down Interstate-84 in several areas on Friday in eastern Oregon, including near Hermiston, Ontario and Baker City, the Oregon State Police said. Waters covering roads in flood-hit northeastern Oregon began to recede later Saturday, according to the Red Cross.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story and bring updates as they become available.

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