A sign of beauty and destruction

CUJ Opinions & Editorials

By Boots Pond, BOT Member

The river is a powerful force. Most days when driving by the river it looks calm. There are many memories of being by and in the river. Whether it be from gaffing for salmon or finding the best swimming hole, the river has been a good part of our lifetimes. It’s easy to forget this lifeline for the community can be a daunting force of nature.

Many folks don’t like rain. Skies are gloomy and it’s understandable how moods could go down. It’s easy for me to enjoy the rainfall because of the smell, hearing the sounds of droplets hitting the ground, and seeing the sight of rain blending with the horizon. Yet, I found it unusual the amount of rain coming down in the days leading up to February 6th, 2020. The river became more swift and murky from the abundance of rain falling and the rain created a great amount of snow melt.

It would’ve been interesting for anyone to be a fly on the wall during the late morning briefing for the Board on February 7th, 2020. There was an ominous silence in the chambers. You could hear the hopes and prayers for the safety of those getting affected by the overflow. The ICT Commander at the time Mr. Paul Rabb deserves more praise than what was given, he remained calm and collected during the flooding event. Before the term unprecedented became overused, the Umatilla River flooding of 2020 was truly unprecedented. From Gibbon to Hermiston, the river was making its presence known for how truly destructive it can be.

I remember driving up Mission Road on my way to Pendleton and seeing the Riverside area being engulfed by the Umatilla River. It was a surreal experience seeing the river flowing as rapid as it was and to see the river out of its usual flow path. My emotions were mixed seeing the view at that time. I truly was empathetic for those whose homes were being destroyed and whose livelihoods had altered so quickly. Still, I had a sense of awe. Mother Nature, herself, will always be determining the river vision.

The 2020 Umatilla River flood is an example of how we must prepare for what lies ahead. What happened was a sign of beauty and destruction. There was much damage done to infrastructure and the way people live. Yet, it was beautiful to see the community coming together to help in any way possible. Whether it be filling sandbags, delivering supplies to those upriver, or organizing the donated goods at the community gym. There was also assistance coming from outside the area from Tri-Cities to the Oregon Coast lending helping hands by cleaning up or donating supplies. In the end, this unanticipated disaster, brought out the best in the community and it will serve as a teaching moment for us as we prepare for tomorrow.