As  Rains  Ease,  Residents  Face  Mucky  Task
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MAPLETON - The rain tapered off and floodwaters receded Tuesday, leaving behind a gooey carpet of brown muck through much of this small Coast Range community.

In Mapleton and elsewhere in Western Oregon, residents and road crews began the slow, tedious job of scooping up the mud and clearing debris.

People along Riverview Avenue, where the Siuslaw River spilled over its banks early Monday, used shovels and squeegees to scrape mud from driveways, garages and doorsteps. Despite the dirty job, most residents expressed relief.

The river had come knocking at their doors. But it never found its way in.

"It would have been a whole lot worse if it had come up another 14 inches," said Elvan Huntington, whose house was nearly flooded.

Huntington, wearing shorts and rubber boots, scraped mud off his front steps and looked out over the foot-deep water that still surrounded his house. He said he probably won't be able to get into his flooded garage until today, when the water inches away from his yard.

"That garage will be a mess," he said.

But nothing like the mess that occurred twice in 1996, when more severe floods left Huntington's carpets and cabinets soaked with dirty river water.

This time, residents escaped with minimal damage as the Siuslaw, like other rain-swollen coastal rivers, began to fall late Monday and Tuesday. The Siuslaw, more than 9 feet above flood stage at Mapleton on Monday afternoon, was predicted to drop below the 18-foot flood level this morning.

After the 1996 floods, many of Huntington's neighbors raised their houses above the highest expected floodwaters.

"We just jacked ours up last year," said Jack Moore, a retired building designer and drafting teacher. "And we came out real good with no major damage."

Byron Randall also raised his home, which easily endured the flooding. His dock, rebuilt only last year, didn't fare as well.

The dock, surrounded by floating logs and other debris, remained in place Tuesday, but a metal ramp was ripped off and one end stuck out of the water at a crazy angle. It will have to be replaced.

"The only thing holding it there is all those logs and crap," he said. "That will be another couple thousand dollars thrown away."

When the river rises, Mapleton neighbors join together, helping to prepare for a flood and clean up afterward.

At the Mapleton Evangelical Church, more than a foot of water remained in the basement Tuesday. But Pastor Russ Hart said volunteers will soon clean up the mess.

"We just kind of pitch in and help each other," he said. "It's part of life here."

And why do they remain in spite of the flooding?

"You wonder - am I crazy?" Moore said. "But look at the beauty of this place. You can see every kind of wildlife on this river. It's just a great place to live."

Upriver near Deadwood, residents had to deal with a different problem - a huge landslide on Deadwood Creek Road. The slide early Monday cut off more than 30 homes until Tuesday, when Lane County road crews cleared the road.

Tchanan Sundstrom, one of the first to drive through, said inconveniences such as the slide and prolonged power outages are part of living in such a remote area.

"We were pretty much stranded," she said. "But it's always nice to be stranded. Life out here can be exciting this time of year."

Elsewhere in rural Lane County, crews reopened all except the most low-lying roads by Tuesday afternoon.

Doug Putschler, road maintenance manager for Lane County's Department of Public Works, said Pope Road and Sam Brown Road on the flats near Triangle Lake remained closed Tuesday. Cantrell Road and Nielsen Road near Veneta were expected to remain closed by high water overnight Tuesday, he said. Simonson Road near Lowell was closed by high water and crews will have to remove some downed trees before the road can be reopened today, Putschler said.

In the Blachly area, one lane of Highway 36 was closed when the roadway sank.

Low-lying Ricketts Road in the Goshen area will be closed until next week, he said.

"When the last water leaves Lane County, that road will be open," Putschler said.

To the north, floodwaters retreated in Tillamook, leaving behind cow pastures shimmering with mud, and roads choked with tangled tree trunks, tires and other debris.

Landslides still buried Highway 6 east of Tillamook on Tuesday, but Highway 34 was reopened between Waldport and Philomath after four landslides were cleared.

In the Albany area, authorities reported that 10 families evacuated from rising water Monday went home to dry streets.

But heavy rains overwhelmed the wastewater plant in Corvallis, where raw sewage spilled into the Willamette River.

In Scio, about 12 miles northeast of Albany, rains also eased and floodwaters receded. At least three houses and several businesses were flooded during Monday's heavy rains, but high waters in Thomas Creek had dropped by Tuesday morning.

While too much water was a problem for much of the state, one place didn't have enough.

Detroit, a town of 350 east of Salem, had to temporarily shut off water service when its reservoir became dangerously low.

Mayor Marth Millican said pipes had frozen and burst during the recent cold snap, only to thaw in warming temperatures and deplete the town's water supply. After a 12-hour shutdown, the reservoir was replenished late Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service canceled a flood warning for the Mohawk River in Lane County at noon Tuesday.

A flood warning for the Willamette at Albany and Oregon City remained in effect, but only minor flooding was expected.

More flooding could be in the state's future, however.

If historic weather patterns hold true, state Climatologist George Taylor said, Oregonians should gear up for about 20 more years of wetter than average winter weather.

After studying 102 years of detailed rain data, Taylor determined that Oregon has a cycle of wet and dry winters that change every 20 to 25 years. The last change - toward wetter weather - began about five years ago.

"They don't turn on and off like clockwork, but they are pretty consistent," Taylor said.

"This is the fifth year in a row of somewhat-wetter to much-wetter conditions."

And if it seems the rain is more intense than the typical misty Oregon rainfall, that's because it is more concentrated during the wetter winter cycles, Taylor said.

The wetter cycles, which are linked to the Pacific Ocean cooling phenomenon called La Niña, bring more intense rain from warm subtropical air masses.

In the drier cycles, Oregon's winter rains come from cooler and weaker weather systems out of the north that carry less fierce rainfall, Taylor said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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