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Rivers on the rise: Columbia, Willamette levels climb

Interstate Bridge lifted 4 times on Tuesday alone due to high water levels

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) --- The Columbia River's water levels are on the rise. At nearly 17 feet, the river is at its highest since 2011, and it's backing up into the Willamette.

By Tuesday morning, the Columbia River was half an inch above minor flood stage, and it's forecast to rise another foot before the end of the week.

That means more flooded parks along local rivers. On Tuesday, one runner stumbled upon some trouble on the Willamette Greenway Trail near the Steel Bridge.

"I've been running down here for the last 3 years and I've never seen it this bad before," Rochelle Hearns said. "You can't run alongside it."

On the Interstate Bridge, Don Hamilton with the Oregon Department of Transportation said high water resulted in 4 bridge lifts on Tuesday alone. If the wet weather continues, Hamilton said that will mean more congestion and delays on I-5.

"People are going to notice this," Hamilton said, adding some perspective that water levels rose to 24 feet during the large flood of 2006, and 19 feet back in 2011.

 

 

Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said currents in the Columbia River are twice as strong as normal, and the river has been taking in debris from dry land that is normally out of reach for the water. That debris, officials said, could damage boats.

"If somebody were to have catastrophic engine failure or something like that where their boat isn't able to be operational, the water's going to take them fast. As they lose engine power and start drifting down the river, they're moving twice as fast as they ordinarily would be," Lt. Chad Gaidos said.

River patrol said it's seeing fewer boaters and people by the water, but they're keeping a close eye on the situation, especially homeless camps along the river.

Watch: KOIN 6 News reporter Eileen Park's interview with Multnomah County deputies about flood conditions

Authorities haven't asked people to stay out of the water just yet, but officials say the river is approaching that point.

The Columbia River continues to be under a flood warning.Showers are expected to continue during parts of Wednesday with highs in the low to mid-50s. Wednesday evening and Thursday morning will be dry, but rain will move back into the area on Thursday evening.

The KOIN 6 Weather Team has your forecast


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