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Mitchell cleaning up from flash flood through town


Residents in the Wheeler County town of Mitchell, with lots of help, were busy cleaning up over the weekend after heavy rain from a thunderstorm late Friday afternoon triggered a flash flood of mud and debris that poured through the community’s main streets.

“The street became a river of mud and debris — a few hundred yards of soil and rock and trees and all manner of things,” Mayor Patrick Farrell told The Oregonian. “It all ended up in the center of town.”

City officials said in a Facebook posting early Saturday that fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries and “only a few evacuations due to slide potential.” Debris also closed U.S. Highway 26 for hours late Friday.

The Mitchell Volumteer Fire Department said on Facebook the heavy rain caused a “minor flash flood to come down Huddleston Heights and Nelson Street, and off of High Street and Rosenbaum” in the nearly 150-year-old town of 140 residents.

The fire agency and Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office sought help from other agencies and thanked neighbors in Wheeler, Crook and Grant counties for their assistance, as well as Oregon State Police, ODOT, the Forest Service and American Red Cross.

As a precaution, the American Red Cross set up a shelter at the Mitchell School gymnasium, where a half-dozen people spent the night.

Farrell said area ranchers helped out by using tractors to clear a path through the muddy mess for emergency vehicles.

A state geologist was called in to review the area and help determine areas of concern. The city council will meet to set out a cleanup plan and look for any long-term damage in the area. A resident thanked Columbia Power “for working all night to restore our power.”

The fire department later thanked many for their help in Saturday’s cleanup, including Susie Pape’ and White Butte Ranch for people and equipment to clear debris, as well as ODOT’s “incredible efforts to clear our roads.”

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