Rain on snow caused 1890 flood
I just ran across an old Mail Tribune article from 2011 that mentioned a massive flood in Medford in 1890. What caused that flood and what details can you give me about it?
— Doug, email submission
The Rogue Valley had quite a winter in 1890, Doug.
According to documents from the Medford Planning Department, heavy snowfall began in October 1889 and lasted until January. The snow stranded southbound travelers for more than a month in Ashland.
In late January, temperatures rose, which caused the snow to melt quickly. Torrential downpours followed. During the first five days of February, about 7 inches of rain fell — almost half of Medford’s current annual precipitation, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
The flooding destroyed several bridges in the area, including a bridge over Bear Creek built by the city of Medford and Jackson County in 1886.
The Rogue Valley is no stranger to devastating floods. Aside from the 1890 flood, major floods occurred here in 1955, 1964, 1974 and 1997. Flooding in the area typically occurs when heavy snow is followed by heavy rain — known as rain-on-snow events.
The city of Medford also has a history of slow-rise flooding along Bear Creek, Elk Creek, Larson Creek, Lazy Creek and Lone Pine Creek.
To prevent major floods from being a frequent event in the valley, a federal law required Medford to develop a natural disaster and hazard reduction plan in 2004. The requirement was put in place after the Federal Emergency Management Agency established the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.
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