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Be prepared: More rain is on the way

As Wednesday's predicted heavy rains failed to fully materialize and the threat of major flooding began washing downstream along with the debris, those living on the edge of many Rogue Valley streams and rivers heaved big sighs of relief.

But meteorologist Dan Mundell of the National Weather Service's Medford office said people living in flood zones need to be prepared. The valley's wettest time of year is the end of December and the beginning of January, he said. Flood season is not over.

Sooner or later, we're going to have flooding, Mundell said. It's not a matter of if, it's just when.

Mundell advises those living in low-lying areas where there is potential for flooding to know their own areas of vulnerability, and to try to mitigate downstream damage.

If you have things near the river's edge, bring them in, Mundell said. Don't let them float down the river.

— Rogue River City Administrator Mark Reagles was the town's public works director during the flood of 1997.

We were watching houses come down the river in '97, said Reagles. We were out of power, of course. We had generators running the phone systems at City Hall. There was a lot of localized flooding. It was pretty hectic. We were dealing with people who were scared and concerned about property and their lives.

Debris flowing down Evans Creek was pulling on the Skevington Crossing suspension bridge and its abutments, he said.

We had to cut the cables on the bridge and let it go, said Reagles.

Reagles agreed that knowledge and preplanning are key to surviving a flood. People should have adequate supplies of water, food and flashlights. They should also closely monitor rivers and streams and have a plan of evacuation, he said.

Know what happens in your area, said Reagles. Where is the 100-year floodplain? You can move things to higher elevations in the house if you know where that mark is. If you're prepared, you're going to survive it. If you think you're in danger, it's time to move. Have an idea of what you want to take before it happens. At the last minute people start scurrying around trying to figure out what you want to take.

Wildlife artist Ed Chance lives above the Rogue River just downstream from Gold Ray Dam. While the water was still 75 feet from his circa-1948 home on Wednesday afternoon, Chance knows his home could flood. He has bought flood insurance and sandbags. Chance and his family mapped out an exit strategy and made sure their cell phones were in working order Wednesday morning.

If we have to leave here, we'll be able to make arrangements to meet, said Chance.

Juli Burch lives in a rental house on West Evans Creek near Rogue River. Burch went home during lunchtime on Wednesday to check on her daughter and her home. In addition to large tree branches and logs that were floating downstream, there was a long-buried old car that was now nodding along the bank across the creek ' just waiting to be freed from its muddy prison by the force of the raging waters, she said.

It's a little scary, said Burch. There's a lot of large debris coming down.

Burch said she's got her emergency supplies ready and has given her daughter an evacuation plan. She's also double-checked her flood insurance coverage.

We contacted the insurance company to know we have adequate insurance should the hot tub end up in the creek, said Burch. We have cell phones, food, water and a loft over the garage as a dry area to stay. We're as prepared as we can be.

Tom Habgood is in charge of stormwater control for the Grants Pass Irrigation District. Habgood said the GPID already has prepared Savage Rapids Dam for winter storms.

We've been very busy the past few days, said Habgood. The closer the creeks and streams get to flood stage, so do our canals. This morning we had water going over the tops of our levies in more areas than I can count.

Where feasible, the GPID uses control valves to divert excess water into patrons' fields, Habgood said.

We'll turn those on and get the water out into pastures, said Habgood. Better to flood a field than knock somebody's house off its foundation.

Mundell said more storms are on the way. This is the time of year the jet stream drives central and eastern Pacific storms into the West Coast, he said.

We were lucky we didn't get the kind of rainfall the river forecast center in Portland predicted, said Mundell. We have to do the forecast based on the potential. People lose their lives if they're not aware of a threat.

Mundell said forecasts for the rest of the week predict another episode of rainy weather starting Friday and extending into Sunday and Monday.

FLOOD WATCH"sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Linda and Leo Chilton of Grants Pass watch the churning, muddy water of the Rogue River spill over Savage Rapids Dam Wednesday. Though major flooding did not materialize as predicted, forecasters remind residents that more rainy weather is on the way.