KERNVILLE/TIDEWATER — High tides and heavy rains brought both the Alsea and Siletz rivers above flood stage earlier this week, with the tidal surge inundating parks, roads and neighborhoods near waterways.
A lighted message board just after the entrance to the Siletz Highway from Highway 101 warned motorists Wednesday that the highway ahead was closed at milepost 9. There, high tides had pushed the Siletz River over the roadway near Reed Creek, at its highest rising above the number on the milepost sign.
At roads to subdivisions and RV parks all along the first nine-mile stretch of Highway 229, vehicles were parked along the sides of the highway to keep them out of the water. Most homes near the river are raised due to the history of flooding, but the debris-filled flow made its way into many garages and structures. Lincoln County’s Ichwhit Park and its parking lot were underwater.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Siletz River at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, when it was at 15.7 feet, just below 16-foot flood stage, and rising. It crested at 21.62 feet Tuesday afternoon and remained at flood stage until Wednesday night. At 1 a.m. Wednesday, the weather service issued a flood warning for the Alsea River near Tidewater. The river crested at 20.83 feet Wednesday afternoon, flooding pasture and dairy land, as well as structures and roads.
But those numbers don’t reflect the impact of the King Tides and other factors that resulted in a surge.
Several inches of rain fell on the coast from two fronts that moved through the area from Monday into Tuesday night, with the ground already saturated and rivers already nearly full from more than six inches of precipitation the previous week and a half. That rainfall was enough to bring the two rivers to flood stage at their upstream gauges, but tides several feet higher than normal resulted in even greater flooding closer to the coast, where the river levels are not measured by instrumentation.
“And then you add in some high surf,” NWS Portland Forecast Meteorologist Rebecca Muessle said. “When you have those really high waves, it kind of compounds those tides and adds an increased surge. And then on top of that we had winds, and the winds were quite strong, which also emphasized that tidal push.”
Rainfall totals for the first two weeks of January were 7.93 inches at Lincoln City, 10.61 inches at Newport, 10.87 inches at Roads End, 12.91 inches at Rose Lodge, 10.19 inches at Yachats and 15.22 inches at Cape Perpetua.