More than three feet of water flooded a creek in the Gambella Valley this weekend, threatening to plunge a bridge into the water, officials said.
The Gambella Waterway Association said in a statement Sunday that the water surged at a rate of 2 to 2.5 feet per minute and was so high it made a “sliding bridge over the Gambelle River.”
The river rose to the top of a steep bank at the junction of the Gambellas Creek and Lake Winnipigtog roads in the region’s Gambella Gorge, which has seen the highest rainfall in decades.
The water level rose to 5 to 6 feet, said Tom Fournier, a water resources officer with the WA Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Officials said the river had been receding for days, and the bridge was no longer secure.
But Fourniers statement did not say how high the water reached.
Officials warned residents in the area to stay away from the area.
“We’ve got a bridge that’s over the river and it’s unstable,” Fourniest said.
“You’re going to have to do something to get that bridge fixed.”
He said the water could continue to rise and reach a higher elevation.
“It’s not like the Gambells is going to drop.
It’s just not going to do that,” he said.
Water levels had risen about 1,000 feet by Sunday morning, Fournerie said.
More than 2,000 people live in the Gorge, and about 10 percent of them live in Gambella County.
Fourniere said the Gambelas Waterway is the largest in the state, but there is a long history of flooding in the valley.
The Gorge was first established in 1856 and includes a number of waterways, including the Gambels Creek, Lake Winnipsigtoga, and Gambelagashe.
Water from the Gamballs Creek runs through the Gambellingo Valley and empties into the Lake Winninsigog.
More recently, the Gambelnagashtog has been the source of much of the high-level runoff that has pushed the Gambleras River above the river’s banks.
Fonterra said in the statement that the Gambles Waterway and its associated dams, levees and other infrastructure were working to keep the Gambes River from rising.
It is not clear when the Gamblestakes dams will be operational.
But if they are not, the region would be in danger of losing much of its water.
Officials are working to fix the bridges that are located in the river, Fonterna said.
They are working with the city of St. George to secure them.
The river is the third-largest in the U.S., behind only the Mississippi and the Ohio.
It flows northward from the St. Louis region, through parts of Georgia, and is then diverted by the Gambeltas River to the Ohio River. More: