Thursday, January 19, 2012

Willamette Floods Now and Then

The Willamette used to flood every spring as the snow melt in the Cascade mountains flowed down to the sea. Flood waters are also fueled by snow melt as far away as the Rockies flowing into the Columbia river. Now the water flow is mostly controlled by dams. But in 1996 a combination of heavy rains, and sudden warm weather gave Portland a little thrill. I was working on the first floor of Alber's Mill at the time. As the water reached its peak we opened the basement door and measured 14 inches to the water lapping at the steps. Some of these photos I took out the office window.

McCormick Pier Apartments--notice thee pyramid shape in the water. That is the very tip of the gazebo where people can sit at picnic tables and watch grain being loaded on board ships at O Dock across the water. On this day they would have needed scuba gear. 

Willamette River Flood

Willamette River Flood
Alber's Mill Parking Lot is now part of the Willamette river

Willamette River Flood

 Some images of earlier floods

Vanport, situated  near what today is Delta Park, was a World War II housing project for shipyard employees. The story of the flood is one laced with racism and incompetence. For some really excellent photos of this shameful event in Portland history check out Thomas Robinson's Historic Photo Archives. It is well worth the trouble of creating a free account just to browse his images.

Vanport 1948

Willamette River Flood 1898