While enjoying our surprise 'rain day' (like a snow day but warmer precipitation) on Friday that flooded parts of Nicol and Vermont roads, we were reminded that Fanno Creek has long played a role in the school's history. The off and on impassable roads and school closure on Nov. 11 stirred many memories.
"In January of 2017, school was closed for almost a week due to snow and ice," said Facilities Operations Manager Rod Maynard, who has worked for OES for eight years. "We had a federal holiday on January 16, a snow day on Jan 17 [pre-remote learning], and then flood waters on the 18th that caused us to have a late start and an early dismissal of school." Cars were funneled through OES's secondary emergency access through Frank Estates to get them off campus safely.
"January of 2017 was the worst flooding here I've ever seen," said Maynard.
Fanno Creek is named after Augustus Fanno, the first European American settler along the creek, who started an onion farm in 1847 on 640 acres of land that later became part of the city of Beaverton, according to Wikipedia.
Fanno is a 15-mile tributary of the Tualatin River. From its headwaters in the West Hills (also known as the Tualatin Mountains) the creek mostly flows west and south through Portland, Beaverton, Tigard, and Durham, and unincorporated areas of Washington County.
Nicol Road usually floods several times a year, said Maintenance Supervisor Rudy Mijo, who has worked at OES for 38 years. "Sometimes it's a minor amount of water coming over the road and nobody takes notice," said Mijo. "But we know that if we get one to two inches of rain in a 24-hour period, we will have some flooding. The closer to two inches, the more severe the flooding."
Mijo's wife, Susan Nordstrom, officially measured the rain at 7 a.m. at their near-to-campus home and it was 2.01 inches. Nordstrom also checked the couple's electronic gauge history and determined 3.68 inches of rain from Wednesday evening into Friday at 11:09 a.m., so conditions were ripe for floods.
Mijo said the Fanno flooding is different every year because the neighborhood beavers—whose dams are the primary cause of irregular water flow—move and adjust their dams.
"The dams divert the water from the main channel and into the wetlands/pond area," he said. "The pond then overflows at the drainage culvert which is located near the mouth of Vermont Road, and because this is a low point, the water then flows across Nicol and into the golf course."
The biggest flood events usually occur after a “significant snowfall that is followed by a warm atmospheric river which rapidly melts the snow on the ground with significant rainfall on top of it,” said Mijo.
Many attempts were made over the years to break up the beaver dams to increase water flow and the Facilities team annually managed car traffic through shallow areas of the flooded roads.
But after the historic 2017 flood, OES purchased a self-inflating flood barrier to mitigate the standing water on Nicol. "The idea at the time was that if we could contain the water on Vermont and re-direct it back to the main channel of Fanno Creek, we would be able to keep Nicol Road usable," said Mijo. "We decided that the barrier would only be deployed if flooding was significant since we don't want to close Vermont unless absolutely necessary."
In watching the weather forecast last Thursday and Friday, Mijo said the Facilities crew figured they might need to employ the flood barrier for the first time.
"We had enough Facilities staff on campus by 6:15 a.m. on Friday to start the attempt to deploy the flood barrier, but because it was our first time doing it, we did not get it deployed as quickly as we thought we would, so by the time it was in place and we felt it would mitigate flood waters, the administration already had to make the call to close school," said Mijo. "We missed getting everything in place in order to have school by about 10 minutes!"
The Facilities crew monitored the flood barrier all day Friday to see if it would hold and keep Nicol Road passable. "It did an excellent job and we feel pretty confident that this will be the solution to manage these events going forward," said Mijo.
Mijo noted that deployment of the flood barrier took four people an hour to set up last Friday; he expects that time to be cut in half for the next flood.
Mijo and Maynard also remember large flood events in 2015 and 1996. The OES yearbook pictures 1977 as a major flooding year.
Do you have memories of floods you navigated at OES? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.