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'Things are looking up,' but Northwest flooding problems linger

February 11, 1996
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EST

PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- Many rivers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho remained above flood stage Sunday but most were receding as the cleanup and damage assessment continued and thousands of people remained away from their flooded homes.

Idaho's panhandle may not find relief for several days as Lake Coeur d'Alene was not expected to begin dropping until Tuesday. The Spokane River, which flows from the lake, would likely remain above flood stage for several days, according to Idaho Emergency Management spokesman Darren Blagburn.

The town of St. Maries was "devastated," while Cataldo was under water and Orofino "cut in half" by flooding, Blagburn said. About 2,500 Idaho residents were still "displaced" by the flooding Sunday afternoon, he said.

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State officials estimate the flood damage in Idaho would climb well above $100 million. Saturday night, Idaho Gov. Phil Batt formally requested that President Clinton declare a section of his state a federal disaster area. Clinton has already signed such declarations for dozens of counties in Oregon and Washington, making residents and governments eligible for federal grants and loans.

Many rivers in Oregon remained above flood stage, but were receding as the recovery phase was well under way, according to state Emergency Management spokesman Tom Worden.

"Tualatin, Oregon City, and Lake Oswego are still very much under water," Worden said. "The water is going down, but these towns won't see much relief until Monday."

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The Tualatin River still raged through the business section of the town of Tualatin Sunday afternoon, but the water level was falling rapidly.

Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt toured Oregon Saturday, taking a helicopter tour of flooded areas. Witt was in Washington state Sunday to see first-hand the problems there.

In Washington, "things are looking up," according to state Emergency Management spokesman Richard Keith.

Instead of sandbagging and evacuations, the focus moved toward adding up the damage and making sure communities have drinkable water. Preliminary estimates place the cost of the flooding in the tens of millions of dollars, Keith said.

Interstate 5 was still blocked Sunday by a mudslide near Centralia, although highway workers expected to have it reopened by Sunday evening. Sections of Interstate 82 were closed because of flooding along the Yakima River, Keith said.



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