A storm that arrived Wednesday could cause moderate flooding on the Klamath River, potentially impacting U.S. 101 near Requa Road and the road to Klamath Glen.
The river is expected to rise above flood stage, reaching 38 feet this afternoon and crest near 42 feet around 1 a.m. Friday, according to a flood warning bulletin the National Weather Service issued on Wednesday.
Forty-two feet is classified as moderate flood stage. NWS meteorologist Bob Ruehl the estimate is a “worst-case scenario.”
The next weather system is expected to bring 4–6 inches of rain Wednesday and today with 5–7 inches possible at higher elevations, according to the NWS.
The Smith River is forecast to crest at 29 feet at the Dr. Fine Bridge, just above monitor stage, according to the California-Nevada River Forecast Center.
Heavy rain in Siskiyou and Trinity counties could also be contributing to the rise in the Klamath, plus a small amount of water was recently released from Iron Gate Dam near the Oregon border, which could also contribute to the rise in the Klamath River, Ruehl said.
Del Norte Emergency Services Manager Cindy Henderson said Tuesday that NOAA and the California Department of Water Resources notified her of the flood watch and made sure Yurok Tribal officials were aware that the Klamath River could flood.
“I’ve been talking to the Weather Service,” Henderson said. “(There’s) not super high confidence that this will be a flood situation. There’s a lot of time between now and Thursday. It could be worse flooding than normal or it could kind of miss us too.”
Henderson said she is conferring with NOAA and Department of Water Resources representatives. If a threat becomes more imminent, she said her office will issue an alert via social media and its Prepare Del Norte website.
River levels at 42 feet not only have the potential to affect the highway, residents living near those areas could find themselves isolated, Henderson said. Residents should be prepared for that possibility, especially those who rely on life-saving medications or equipment.
Residents should also be prepared to evacuate and stay with relatives if necessary, Henderson said.
“I just drove by Klamath, the river’s high for sure,” she said. “We’ve been watching it for a couple days now. We’re just watching it really close and listening to the weather and paying close attention to our partners. If we need to activate we will absolutely activate.”
It may seem odd that the Klamath is expected to reach moderate flood stage while forecasters predict the Smith will barely surpass monitor stage. According to Alan Haynes, a hydrologist with the California-Nevada River Forecast Center, the difference in size between the watersheds impact how they respond to the amount of precipitation they receive.
“The Klamath has been prime for a good rise,” Haynes said Tuesday, adding that the watershed is responding to a steady climb in moisture. “They’re going to get hit pretty good with precipitation in the next couple days. The Smith is going to come up (as well), but it’s not forecast to make it to flood stage.”
Haynes noted that the wet weather has caused rivers to rise statewide. He said he and his colleagues will work 24 hours through tonight at least to monitor them for flooding.
In addition to the flood watch in Klamath, the National Weather Service has issued a general flood watch, high wind warning and a coastal flood advisory for the North Coast areas.
According to the high wind warning, the weather system impacting the area will bring sustained south winds from 25 to 35 mph with gusts ranging from 55 to 65 mph. The warning has been in effect since 5 p.m. Wednesday and lasts through 9 a.m. this morning.
North Coast residents should also be prepared for localized ponding of water on low-lying roads with poor drainage and the rise of small streams. The general flood watch will last through this afternoon.
Meanwhile high astronomical tides may bring flooding to coastal areas between 8 a.m. and noon today. According to an NWS bulletin, the water level in low-lying areas around Crescent City Harbor and South Beach is expected to peak between 8.9 and 9.1 feet above average low tide levels, possibly washing some water onto U.S. 101.