Flooding recedes in Turner; officials eye swollen Willamette

Watch a forecast update at the end of this story.

SALEM, Ore. - Flood waters receded in hard-hit areas around the Willamette Valley Friday morning, but a rising Willamette River and a new round of rain has residents and local officials keeping a close eye on water levels.

In flooded Turner, near Salem, the water had receded by several feet Friday morning and evacuated residents were returning to homes to assess the damage.

Gas service in parts of the city was still shut down early Friday but Turner mayor Paul Thomas said he expects NW Natural to start reactivating service Friday afternoon.

Mayor Thomas told that sewer problems caused by flooding on Thursday have been taken care of and the water in the city is safe for residents to drink.

Thomas said flooding became a safety issue early Thursday morning and at about 2 a.m. they started evacuating people. The city issued a strongly worded but not mandatory advisory to evacuate the city. "We made a decision early on that at no point were we going to drag people out of their homes," Thomas said. He and others went door-to-door to advise people of the situation and assist in evacuations.

Mayor Thomas also said sandbags were still available at City Hall in the center of town. He said any local residents with questions should stop by the command center at City Hall or call (503)-743-2155. Schools in the city are closed Friday, Thomas said.

"You never want to see anyone go through pain or strife, but we did this back in '96 and we bounced back," Turner police chief Don Taylor said Friday. "Last year, we saw Aumsville go through this with the tornado and they bounced back, so there's no doubt in my mind that our citizens in this great city can't do the same."

Gov. John Kitzhaber visited Turner to inspect the flood damage. Mayor Thomas said he's only been on the job for five months and this was his first big crisis he's had to deal with. "I'm a Southern California boy, we don't flood down there," he said, adding he's lived in Turner for about five years.

Many regional waterways, such as Mill Creek in Salem, are still running fast and high ahead of another expected weather system that KATU Meteorologist Rhonda Shelby said would bring more steady rain to the region by mid-morning Friday.

However, Shelby said rain totals will likely be lower than the deluge that hit the region on Wednesday and into Thursday, and river levels, which are receding, would probably continue to do so at a slow rate.

She said storms heading for the region will move through quickly, unlike the rainmaker that hung out over the state Thursday and in combination with melting snow caused much of the flooding.

Streets and homes remained flooded in Salem after Mill Creek went over it's banks Thursday. Many residents place sandbags around homes and businesses but numerous homes were flooded.

State hydrologists are saying the Willamette River will crest at two feet above flood stage at about 4 p.m. Friday. Officials in Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and other cities and towns on the banks of the major waterway were shoring up levees and other vulnerable areas ahead of the pulse of high water.

The Willamette River is not expected to cause flooding in the Portland area but will be running high near the falls in Oregon City. Rhonda Shelby said that the expected crest for the river may cause some minor flooding on secondary roadways near the river but that's about it.

In Portland, notorious southeast waterway Johnson Creek was over its banks Thursday, flooding parking lots, walkways, yards and a popular bicycle path. The flood-prone creek was a foot shy of "major flood stage" Thursday. Locals living nearby said they were watching to see what happens but the creek was receding below flood stage Friday morning.

Meanwhile, ski resorts in the Cascades were digging out and working to prepare their facilities for an expected influx of skiers eyeing several feet of new snow following months of below-average snowfall and sometimes slushy and bare slopes.

Operators at Mount Bachelor near Bend said they will re-open after closing due to severe weather conditions early int he week but said they will have limited parking due to all the new snow.

Officials at Mt. Hood Meadows said they have 90 inches - over 7 feet - of new snow and crews are working to prepare the facility for skiers this weekend. Similar new snow totals were reported by other Oregon ski resorts.

In Seattle, where residents are digging out after a heavy snowfall and thick ice brought the region to a near halt, flooding is the new worry and watches have been issued for Friday afternoon for most counties in Western Washington, including Grays Harbor, Clallam, Island, Jefferson, San Juan, Skagit, Whatcom, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston. The flood watch will continue through Saturday afternoon, according to KOMO News.

Warmer temperatures are expected through the day in the Puget Sound area, where nearly 300,000 people were without power Friday morning.

Here's a forecast update: