2012 Flooding Compared to 1996 Floods

January 20, 2012

By Melissa Frey

WILLAMETTE VALLEY, Ore. — Sights of flooding across western Oregon are reminding many of what they went through back in February of 1996.

Only two natural disasters in the past 30 years have caused more than a billion dollars in damage to Oregon and they were both floods. The most extreme was February of 1996.

It rained for four days straight and there was enough warm air to turn several feet of snow into running water overnight.

Thursday’s rising waters brought flashbacks for many who were around for both.

“It was coming over my upper yard in ’96…the people that live right here in this area had their homes raised in ’96. FEMA came in and helped and there are still a few homes that two or three feet of water in them this morning,” said Mapleton resident Rick Barrowas.

So how do the two storms really stack up?

The Siuslaw River in Mapleton crested just over 28 feet Thursday night. That’s only about two feet below where it was in ’96.

It’s been raining non-stop for four days, just like the set up to the 96 floods.

Right now we’re up to 4.37 inches, but in ’96, those four days in February brought almost five inches more than that.

Back then, the Willamette River exceeded its banks by ten feet by the time it got to Portland. Right now, it’s sitting almost 15 feet below that.

And the true difference is damage. The ’96 flood caused $3.9 billion, and although we’re still in the clean up of this year’s flood, it is not expected to hit that mark.

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