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Missing woman found dead as floodwaters in eastern Oregon begin to recede

The sad news broke Sunday afternoon on a day when the floodwaters were starting to recede, allowing residents to return and assess the damage.

UMATILLA COUNTY, Ore. — A 62-year-old woman who lived in one of the areas hit by floods in northeastern Oregon was reported missing Saturday. On Sunday morning, searchers and neighbors found her body. Officials said "it appears she was swept away by rushing water."

The sad news broke Sunday afternoon on a day when the floodwaters were starting to recede, allowing residents to return and assess the damage.

An approximately 10-mile stretch of Interstate 84 south of Hermiston, Oregon has reopened with a single lane after a weekend closure due to flood damage.

Here's where to report flood damage to get state/federal assistance

Oregon National Guard troops aboard two helicopters airlifted 21 people to safety on Saturday after 26 people were evacuated from the same area on Friday.

More evacuations for those who have requested assistance and are stranded due to flooding were planned Sunday. Red Cross shelters in Pendleton and Walla Walla, Washington have taken in people displaced by the floods.

RELATED: Missing woman found dead in eastern Oregon, officials say apparently 'swept away by rushing water'

Credit: Umatilla Flood Joint Information Center
Janet Tobkin Conley

“We are still performing wellness checks in more rural or remote areas with our search and rescue volunteers on the ground, just knocking on doors making sure that everyone's okay,” said Christopher Ingersoll, spokesperson for the Joint Information Center for the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.

On Sunday, the weather cleared and high winds died down giving crews an opportunity to get some work done.

“The weather has certainly been helpful today. We are, in some areas, starting to move toward recovery phase where we're starting to get some roads cleared or repaired,” Ingersoll said.

People have been curious about federal help for all the people hit so hard.

The first step is for experts to get a damage assessment, which could take a week or more. After that, a decision will be made to determine if the federal government will be asked for help.

The flooding began Thursday when rapid snow melt and precipitation led to the river overflowing its banks. At 6 a.m. Friday, the river was measured at 17.4 feet, well over the flood stage of 12.3 feet.

Property and homes have been damaged and roads and schools have been shut down. The flooding has primarily affected low-lying and rural areas in Umatilla County. 

RELATED: 'The water was over the fence': Eastern Oregon residents come to grips with flooding destruction

On Friday, the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office said residents in the Bingham Road and Mill Creek Road areas, which are east of Pendleton, should determine whether they have the resources to shelter in place for several weeks. If not, they should evacuate.

Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on Friday to make more resources available to help those impacted by the flooding.

On Sunday, the state fire marshal's office mobilized eight members of a Type 2 Incident Management Team to support the ongoing response to the flooding.

The East Oregonian newspaper reported Thursday that a mobile home park in Pendleton was flooded. KGW's Kyle Iboshi said there wasn't much damage in downtown Pendleton, one of the more populous areas of the county.

On Thursday, crews from Pendleton fire and police and Umatilla Tribal Fisheries Department rescued a homeless man and his bicycle from an island on the Umatilla River Friday. During the rescue, the river rose 6 inches.

Also Thursday, an Oregon Army National Guard crew rescued several people stranded on a rooftop.

Credit: Oregon Army National Guard
An Oregon Army National Guard crew saved several people stuck on rooftoops during a flood of the Umatilla River on Feb. 6, 2020.

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