Forecasters fear landslides in areas burned by wildfire

Eagle Creek Fire - Photo from Multnomah County Communications - 8.jpg
More than 900 firefighters are working to contain the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, which broke out September 2 and is believed to have been started by a 15-year-old with fireworks. (Photo courtesy Multnomah County Communications taken 9-11-2017)

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. – A flash flood watch is in effect through Tuesday for areas burned by wildfires.

The National Weather Service in Portland predicts another one to two inches of rain will fall on the Eagle Creek Fire burn area through Tuesday morning. The heaviest rain is expected later in the day Monday and Monday night.

“The lack of vegetation and the burn scarring will likely result in enhanced runoff, debris flows, mudslides, and landslides in the downstream of the drainages affected by the fires and in the steep terrain,” the National Weather Service said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said the work they’ve been doing in the Columbia River Gorge near the Eagle Creek Fire isn’t just clean-up. They’ve also been preparing for the change in weather.

Crews have been working to remove trees and debris burned by the fire.

They’ve been clearing Interstate 84, which is still closed to eastbound traffic.

Now, with the rain moving in, the areas scorched by fire become prone to slides.

ODOT said it’s something they’ll now be looking out for throughout the rainy season.

“It takes three to five years at least before the vegetation can really restore itself, before we can get back some certainty that it's not as much of a threat,” said Don Hamilton from ODOT.

There’s still no timeline on when I-84 will reopen.

ODOT said the historic Columbia River Highway will likely remain closed for a long time; especially if there are any slides that cover the roadway.

The flash flood watch remains in effect through Tuesday morning for the following areas:

  • Cascades in Lane County
  • Central Columbia River Gorge
  • Northern Oregon Cascades
  • Western Columbia River Gorge
  • Eagle Creek burn area
  • Whitewater burn area
  • Separation burn area
  • Rebel burn area
  • Avenue burn area