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Rain bloats rivers

Southern Oregon rivers swelled with winter rain and snowmelt, but locally most waters didn't spill from their banks Wednesday as predicted.

However, forecasters expect another storm front to sweep across the region Friday, delivering more precipitation.

We're prepared for whatever comes, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said.

He checked areas along the Rogue River for flooding Wednesday morning, but found only minor roadside drainage issues.

The river was well within its banks, Winters said.

— However, saturated soils can't absorb much more water and can loosen their hold on tree roots. Deputies will keep an eye out for falling trees, especially if the wind picks up, he said.

Today's forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of showers and south winds of about 10 mph, the National Weather Service reported.

Friday, the rain will return and winds will pick up to between 10 and 20 mph, said Murray Orr, hydrometeorological technician at the NWS Medford office.

He said forecasters would keep a close eye on soil conditions and rain in case additional flood warnings were needed.

The weather service issued flood warnings Tuesday for the Rogue River between Gold Ray Dam and Grants Pass and the Illinois River at Kerby. A break in the rain overnight led forecasters to cancel those warnings at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The Rogue River below Gold Ray Dam flowed at about 6.5 feet Wednesday afternoon, well below the flood stage of 12 feet.

In Grants Pass, the river level was 12 feet by midafternoon, short of the expected crest of 19 feet and flood stage of 20 feet. The highest crest there was 23.9 feet on Feb. 18, 1983.

Heavy rains swamped the Grants Pass wastewater treatment plant, which spilled about 15,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Rogue River Wednesday morning. Continuing rain forced the treatment plant to spill more raw sewage at a second site at about 2:30 p.m. How much more sewage leaked was unknown, but the spill was expected to continue until 8 p.m.

Officials said the two spills were small relative to the river's raging winter flows and likely wouldn't cause environmental damage. However, they warned that river water isn't safe to drink and people exposed to it should wash with clean water and soap.

Localized flooding plagued small streams in Josephine County. County crews worked on inundated county roads and were unable to respond to flooded private property. The city of Grants Pass provided residents with sandbags.

County officials advised people to avoid flooded roads, but didn't close them.

Gary Leaming, an Oregon Department of Transportation project-information coordinator, said state highways weren't affected, but while checking for road damage, he spotted homes surrounded by water.

The Illinois River at Kerby, where the flood level is 35 feet, crested at 25.4 feet Wednesday afternoon.

The Rogue River topped its banks at Agness, measuring 23.4 feet Wednesday afternoon, well above the 17-foot flood level. Low-lying roads and campgrounds, including Lobster Creek Campground, were flooded. A flood warning remained in effect through today from Agness to Gold Beach.

The Chetco River near Brookings flowed at about 19.66 feet Wednesday afternoon, causing minor flooding, but flood warnings were canceled.

All the precipitation was good news for local skiers, who found five inches of new snow on Mount Ashland Wednesday.

Elsewhere around the state, steady rains caused minor flooding and at least one highway closure.

Oregon 18 was closed by high water Wednesday morning near its junction with 99W near McMinnville, the Oregon Department of Transportation said. Detours had been set up. High water narrowed U.S. 101 near Seaside to a single lane.

Flood watches remain in effect through Friday on urban streams in northwest Oregon and tributaries of the lower Willamette River.

Rivers of concern are the Alsea River in Lincoln and Benton counties; the Siletz River in Lincoln County; the Siuslaw River in Lane County; the Mohawk River in Lane County; the Yamhill River in Yamhill County; the Mary's River in Benton County; the Luckiamute River in Benton and Polk counties; the Pudding River in Clackamas and Marion counties; the Tualatin River in Washington County; and the Clackamas River in Clackamas County, the National Weather Service office in Portland reported.

Rain bloats rivers "aburke@mailtribune.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

real time stream flows at

Photo by Gary Leaming A house is inundated by floodwaters Wednesday in Wonder, southwest of Grants Pass.