Officials warn residents to stay vigilant as mid-valley continues to flood

Vada Shelby

With roadways across Benton County closing due to flooding, officials warn that residents should use their best judgement and adhere to all warnings and signs posted in flooded areas. In the past 24 hours, there have been numerous reported incidents of vehicles sliding off the road and into water, including a full-sized dump truck Tuesday afternoon.

Corvallis Fire Department division chief of training Shawn Morgan has seen the floods himself and has advice for staying safe when using the roads.

“Avoid at all times attempting to cross roadways covered in water. It takes a mere 6 inches of water to knock an adult over, and 12 inches will move a car,” Morgan said.  “There is that much over several roadways over Corvallis currently. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t see the stripe on the road, you should avoid it.”

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The water levels are expected to rise tonight around 9 p.m., reaching a crest of 33.23 feet total. Fire and Life Safety Officer Rich Saalsaa from Philomath Fire Department said the Willamette River is the biggest concern for flooding right now. Mary’s River water levels have gone down sufficiently within the past 24 hours. Saalsaa said when flooding is expected, road work crews will typically change road signs to indicate high water or roads being closed.

“If a sign says ‘road closed’, that is not a suggestion,” Saalsaa said. “The county is relying on people to use common sense if they see those signs. We end up rescuing people because they don’t see the sign or pay attention.”

Saalsaa said that rescue times are longer in situations like this, such as the dump truck that slid off the road yesterday took three and a half hours to rescue because the officers need to take precautions of their own and get boats and other life-preserving materials ready as well.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you are approaching water, use your best judgement,” Saalsaa said. “If you find yourself stranded, the first thing you need to do is call 911. Don’t call someone else to pull you out, but then you have multiple people to pull out.”

Highway 20 remains open and functioning with delays in traffic. It is advised to plan trips accordingly and expect up to an hour in delays. At the crest of the flooding tonight, it is still unsure what the road conditions will be, and officers advising using the ODOT website to check TripAdvisor before crossing the river.