WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Mill Creek flows through Walla Walla are expected to increase significantly as a result of a storm system moving through the Pacific Northwest over the weekend. Although flow levels are anticipated to remain well below flood stage, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff advise people to use caution around the cold, fast-moving water in Mill Creek and other rivers, streams and creeks throughout the region.
The National Weather Service’s Pendleton station announced a “Hydrologic Outlook” for areas in the Blue Mountains to expect precipitation amounts exceeding 3 inches during late-Saturday and Sunday.
Currently (Dec. 19, 2014), flows in Mill Creek are less than 70 cubic feet per second (c.f.s.) at the diversion dam. Corps hydrologists anticipate Weather Service-forecasted rainfall for this area could increase Mill Creek flows up to 800-1,500 c.f.s., depending upon the actual amount of rainfall and runoff. Mill Creek’s flood-operations plan calls for diverting water into Bennington Lake when flows in the creek reach 2,500 c.f.s.
Mill Creek is prone to flash-flooding conditions; water quantity can very rapidly increase. To prepare for those fast-changing conditions, Walla Walla District Corps water managers carefully monitor weather forecasts (temperature and precipitation), snowpack volume and changing flow conditions in Mill Creek and other communities located along rivers throughout the District’s area of operations. This area covers the Snake River Basin, plus a portion of the middle Columbia River and tributaries.
Current streamflow information for Mill Creek can be found on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?site_no=14013000,14013700,14013800,14015000,14018500. Gage Number 14015000 is located near the Mill Creek Diversion Dam. An interactive map of streamflow gages in Washington State is available at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/?m=real&r=wa.
Corps emergency management staff communicate with local officials to obtain on-site observations from communities in which flooding frequently occurs.
BE SAFE ~ The Corps of Engineers discourages in-water recreation during this time of year because of cold water temperatures, higher flow velocities, floating debris and brush along the river banks. Please, be safe around rivers and streams! Visitors with children and dogs should be very cautious about allowing them to approach fast-moving water. Heavy rainfall and higher flows can saturate earthen shorelines, creating unstable walking surfaces.
BE PREPARED ~ Disasters and emergency situations -- like flooding -- can occur anywhere, often with little or no prior warning. Corps officials encourage everyone to keep local emergency management contact information handy, keep an eye on evolving weather and streamflow conditions, and be familiar with emergency action plans for your specific location. Be prepared and stay informed so you’ll be ready to react if an emergency occurs near you.
STAY INFORMED ~ Weather forecast information and extreme weather warnings can be found on the National Weather Service (NWS) website http://weather.gov. NWS Forecast Stations serving areas within the Corps’ Walla Walla District area of operations include:
• NWS Spokane - serves northeastern and far-eastern Washington (includes Garfield and Asotin counties) and northern Idaho
• NWS Pendleton - serves south-central Washington (as far east as Columbia County) and northeastern Oregon
• NWS Riverton - serves western and central Wyoming
• NWS Boise - serves southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon
• NWS Pocatello - serves southeastern Idaho
• NWS Missoula - serves central Idaho and northwestern Montana
• NWS Elko - serves most of northern Nevada
• NWS Salt Lake City - serves Utah
The Corps works with states, counties and other public entities to provide necessary resources and information. The Corps does not have authority to provide disaster assistance directly to individuals.
The first responsibility for protecting life, homes and property from flood damage rests with the individual. Local governments and agencies, such as flood control districts, may share in this responsibility, and together form a community's first line of defense in preventing flood damages.
Occasionally, however, local resources are not able to minimize the effects of flooding. The Corps’ flood assistance program is intended to supplement state and local governments and special-purpose districts when more help is needed.
Walla Walla District is prepared to assist states and municipalities with flood-management support. That assistance could include technical expertise, supplies and materials, equipment or contracts for emergency flood-fighting work. District flood support teams and technical experts are ready to deploy should local emergency managers request Corps assistance.
State and local agencies needing disaster assistance from the Corps should contact the Walla Walla District Emergency Management Office at 509-527-7146, or 509-380-4538.
Individuals and business owners are encouraged to contact local emergency management agencies to ensure they understand how to prepare, respond and recover from a flood.
Release no. 14-097