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Waters rose rapidly Friday on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Photos courtesy of Andrew Wildbill, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
State of Emergency

Published February 8, 2020; Updated February 8, 2020 - 4:26 p.m. -EST 

Update: 10.50 p.m. - EST

The enacted road closure remains in effect at the Cayuse road barricade to all travelers except essential local traffic only.

While the Umatilla River is currently experiencing recession, portions of the roadway after the barricade at Cayuse continue to be potentially hazardous due to the after-effects of flooding and have yet to be stabilized by officials. For safety of all, please continue to follow all road signs and any possible directive from emergency personnel as instructed.

Road Closures: Road closures continue due to high water or road damage throughout all of the Umatilla County which includes reservation boundaries. Do not drive through standing water and stay away from creeks, rivers and levees. Regard all established road barricades.

UMATILLA INDIAN RESERVATION, Ore. - A State of Emergency has been declared for the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Mission, Oregon due to flooding along the Umatilla River.

Several roads in the area were covered with water and impassable. Helicopters were brought in and assisted with the evacuation of tribal citizens from the Nixyaawwii Governance Center on Friday evening, according to the Confederated Umatilla Journal.

As of 6 p.m. Friday, Confederated Umatilla Journal reported there were no injuries or fatalities on the Reservation and the tribes had appropriated $100,000 for those impacted by the flooding to get room rentals, food, equipment and more.

According to a press release issued by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, located in Pendleton, Oregon, residents should avoid being in the flood waters.

Even emergency vehicles faced difficult conditions.

The Tribe provided an overview of the flood impact:

Affected Umatilla Reservation residents who reside along the Umatilla River or its tributaries in need of emergency assistance due to flooding should call Umatilla Tribal Dispatch at 541-278-0550.                

The following UPDATE was provided to Native News Online on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 8

Water Advisory for Umatilla Indian Reservation

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) are reinforcing to the general public that the tribal municipal water (tap water) system is safe to drink and utilize for individual consumption, household and hygienic needs.

Pre-cautionary water treatment should continue to be implemented only for Umatilla Reservation residents with private wells residing in the flood zones. Only private well owners should continue to boil all water for at least one minuteor use bottled water from a safe source until your supply is tested and determined safe from potential contamination. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, washing dishes, brushing teeth and preparing food until further notice.

Additional advisory for those unable to avoid flood waters; wear rubber boots, heavy work gloves, goggles or safety glasses. Always avoid any potential private septic system failures

Severe Road Damage Imposes Evacuations for Gibbon/Bingham Road

The Confederated Tribes of The Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) in conjunction with Umatilla County are continuing to coordinate operations with a Type 3 Incident Management Team (local officials) to aid citizens in response to flooding.

Notice for Residents of Gibbon/Bingham Road areas: An Evacuation advisement has been issued. Road damage is extensive in the area and it may be weeks before residents can drive in or out of the affected area.

The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office along with Search & Rescue are coordinating with the National Guard air resources and will be in the area Saturday, February 8th to check on residents and identify evacuation needs.

Road Closures:

Bingham Road has multiple areas of high water and landslides.  It is recommended to avoid Bingham Road until the water levels recede.

Upper Cayuse Road is closed to all non-emergency personnel.

Thornhollow Bridge is compromised and impassable.

Travelers are advised to avoid South Highway 331 if possible.


Umatilla Reservation residents currently residing along the Umatilla River or its tributaries.


The Cmuytpáma Warming Station will receive evacuees for urgent shelter needs.

The Designated Coordination Center is the Mission Gym: 73282 July Grounds Lane, Pendleton Oregon 97801


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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].