US Army Corps of Engineers
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Corps warns flooding likely after Oregon wildfires

Published Sept. 28, 2020

The upcoming rainy season, combined with the historic wildfires in Oregon, set the stage for increased flooding conditions according to Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials. The potential for damage from these floods in the Willamette Valley, in the Umpqua River Basin, and along the Rogue River are significant.

“In locations affected by wildfires there can be an increase of sediment flow and runoff in burn areas,” said Paul Sclafani, Portland District hydraulic engineer. “Smaller storms can cause flooding and add additional sediment in the rivers and waterways downstream of burned areas. As we move into flood season, people that live downstream of these burned areas should maintain a higher level of awareness of their flood risk.”

Typically, brush, grasses and other vegetation absorb rain and root systems help to secure soil on slopes. After a wildfire, the absence of these plants can cause an increased potential for floods, erosion, or debris flow and mudslides. Flash flooding and mud flows can occur quickly and with little warning.

The following tips can help residents take action to protect themselves, their families and property.

  • Talk to local community officials to understand the flood risk in the community.
  • Monitor weather forecasts and flood warnings on
  • Prepare a “go bag” and have a plan in case of evacuation notices. See for more.
  • Clean out draws and drainages around your personal property. This includes brush and other debris that could keep water from flowing into a culvert or drain. 
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance. Even areas that are not normally prone to flooding can flood after a wildfire. 
  • Secure outdoor items or store them inside.
  • Beware of downed power lines. Call the local utility company to report any.
  • Do not drive across flooded roadways. Turn around, don’t drown. It only takes a foot or two of water to sweep away a vehicle.

During flood season, Portland District operates its dams in the Rogue River Basin and the Willamette Valley to reduce the severity of flooding.

“We work closely with the Northwest River Forecast Center for determining releases from the dams to reduce the severity of flooding,” said Salina Hart, chief, Reservoir Regulation and Water Quality Section. “The dams can significantly reduce flooding, but they cannot eliminate it.”

The Corps collaborates with partners from other federal, state and local agencies that focus on hazard mitigation, emergency management, floodplain management, natural resources management and conservation to help educate and protect public interest. These include, among others, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Silver Jackets team.

Portland District can assist communities with evaluation of flood risk or non-structural measures that help reduce floods and their consequences, such as establishing flood response plans and considering land development plans to reduce flood risks and hazards. Learn more about these programs on our website:


Portland District Willamette and Rogue river basin project water levels:



River Forecast Center:

Federal Flood Risk Management website
Community preparedness resources:,,, and

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates 13 dam and reservoir projects in the Willamette River drainage system and two in the Rogue, Applegate and Elk Creek river systems that provide flood damage reduction, power generation, irrigation, water quality improvement, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation. For more about the Portland District, visit:


Release no. 20-139