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Scappoose schools call for early release as residents rush to fill sand bags in wake of floods

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Flooding near Highway 30 and Bay Hill Lane around 11 a.m., Tuesday Feb. 12.Heavy rains Monday and Tuesday led to flooding throughout Columbia County.

The Columbia County Roads Department reported eight roads with high water Tuesday either impassable or closed due to the flooding. High standing water also brought the morning Highway 30 commute into Portland to a crawl.

Both Scappoose and St. Helens made self-service sandbag stations available, attracting heavy foot traffic Tuesday.

"It rose really, really quickly," noted Lana Miles, whose house is on 4th Street just north of EJ Smith Road in Scappoose, of the swollen South Scappoose Creek. "Overnight, it came up so fast."

Miles purchased her house in 2003. The former owner told her at the time he had been told to evacuate during the 1996 flood, but the house had not been compromised. Tuesday was the first time Miles has seen the creek water level come up to the EJ Smith Road bridge.

"This is kind of scary," she said.

Just before noon Tuesday, Scappoose School District announced it would release all students at 1 p.m., citing "weather and deteriorating road conditions." The district also canceled all afternoon and evening activities.

While standing water on some Scappoose roads dissipated over the course of the day, others got little to no reprieve.

Randy Hamilton surveyed the lowlands of his farm from high ground just off of Dutch Canyon Road on Tuesday morning. A portion of the

road was closed due to high water.

Hamilton spoke to his daughter earlier in the morning when she was among the hundreds stuck in Highway 30 traffic due to high standing water during her morning commute into Portland.

"It never dawned on me to come out here and take a look," Hamilton said.

Hamilton has lived on the property since the 1960s, and it had previously been his grandfather's. He estimates he's seen the low pasture flood five times.

"It's not really often it goes over the road," Hamilton said.

Other fields and pastures saw standing water early Tuesday. The Columbia County Fairgrounds opened its 40 horse stalls to owners with animals in need of dry land.

In St. Helens at McCormick Park, water spilled over Milton Creek's banks, nearly reaching a pedestrian bridge built over the creek last year. Several people stopped to take photos. By sunset, city crews taped off the bridge to prevent access.

St. Helens Public Works personnel were dispatched to various locations throughout the city to help clear drains and monitor areas where flooding was reported.

For a short period, crews worked to clear drains at the end of Melvin Avenue. The roadway runs perpendicular to Milton Creek, but when waters rise, it can flood.

Scott Harrington, a St. Helens Public Works employee, noted that many of the city's storm drains were surcharging, an uncommon occurrence that happens when the system is overloaded. The excess water becomes displaced through manhole covers, which occurred on Melvin Avenue.

Also Tuesday, a sinkhole developed at Gable Road and Columbia Boulevard, prompting a closure.

"It was obviously a lot of water in a short time," Harrington noted.

Kevin Hinchliffe, an amateur ham radio operator and weather observer, said he was expecting rain, but he wasn't expecting water levels to rise so quickly. In the 10 years he's lived in the area, he has seen the Milton Creek flood five separate times. Hinchliffe and his wife, Karen Wood, also operate two weather monitoring systems from their home.

On Tuesday, they measured nearly 2 inches of rainfall.

Columbia County Flooding

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