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Sprague River rising to 8.4 feet, on flood watch

Klamath County lakes, rivers and creeks are rising and rushing, but officials are not anticipating any serious flood impacts.

Sprague River is under flood watch by the National Weather service, which means flooding is “possible but not imminent,” according to the NWS website. Pit River near Canby, affecting Modoc County, is also under watch.

A Klamath County flood map of Beatty and Sprague River showed river water levels reaching about 7 feet Tuesday morning, and forecasted to climb to a high of 8.4 feet by early Wednesday morning. The map, shared by Klamath County Emergency Management, showed water levels decreasing after Wednesday, hitting about 6 feet on Saturday morning.

On Tuesday afternoon, Emergency Manager Morgan Lindsay said the Bureau of Reclamation was letting water out of the Link River to help lower the water level. 

Lindsay said officials were closely monitoring levels across the county. She said Sprague River's potential 8.4-foot high did not meet the minor flood response threshold, which is 8.5 feet, and she wasn’t pursuing significant county-wide preparation.

Lindsay said river water levels in Klamath County typically rise above 7.5 feet every five to seven years, and above 8.5 feet every 10 to 15 years.

The highest recent Sprague River level was 9.6 feet in 2017, Lindsay said. Some structures and roadbeds were affected in 2017, Lindsay said, but no homes were hit by flooding.

Sprague River also flooded in 1996 and 1997, damaging about 30 structures in Beatty, Chiloquin and Sprague River, according the the Klamath County government website.

Lindsay said it was important for residents to be prepared for natural disasters as they increased in frequency.

“We go along with what science is telling us, and that is that our climate is changing and storms are worsening — even in just the minor stuff we see around here,” Lindsay said.

As flooding becomes more regular, Lindsay said impact mitigation agencies may advocate to move some Klamath County properties farther from rivers, or to widen/deepen river channels.

She said the first step to staying safe from a natural disaster was simply being aware of the local hazards like earthquakes, major winter storms, hazardous material spills, volcano eruptions.

“We’ve become complacent as a culture with natural disasters and thinking one won’t happen, or one won’t happen to me,” Lindsay said. “But when it does happen, we lose everything.”

Lindsay wants people to reach out to her with information and/or photos of flooding in the community. You can email her at mlindsay@co.klamath.or.us.



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