OVER THREE BILLION POUNDS
OF WATER PASSED HEPPNER
Seventy Million Pounds Per Minute
Moving 12 Miles Per Hour – One
Hour and Twenty Minutes From Heppner to Lexington
(from the East Oregonian, June 30, 1903)
The brief scientific discussion of the Heppner cloudburst by John T. Whistler, published in the East Oregonian last week has been the subject of much comment from the press of the Northwest and from private citizens of Heppner and other places. Almost every paper of note in Eastern Oregon has reprinted the interview as it appeared in these columns and has commented upon it The La Grande Chronicle and Observer, the Baker City Democrat, the Evening Capital News, the Grant County News, Walla Walla Statesman, The Dalles Times- Mountaineer and other leading papers have given it space and noted its extremely conservative estimates of the amount of water which rushed down the Willow creek valley.
It seems impossible for the residents of Heppner who witnessed the disaster to believe that a wall of water only five feet deep outside of the creed bed did the awful damage that the city suffered. Yet Mr. Whistler's measurements, surveys and cross sections of the creek and the track of the flood are based on indisputable scientific processes. The area of the storm and the concentration of water in the Balm creek canyon can be proven by the traces it left behind. The amount of water that passed through the town was equal to a volume one foot deep over 1100 acres. The amounts to 58,872,000 cubic feet or 3,532,320,000 pounds of water. The fall of the creek where the rain concentrated in Balm creek to the lower end of Heppner is 75 feet to the mile.
Some idea of the awful pressure exerted against the town by this volume of water moving 12 miles per hour may be gained from a contemplation of these figures. It was not the depth of the water the wrought the havoc, it seems but the awful weight of the volume, and the velocity it had gained by the time it had reached Heppner. The speed of the flood was impeded by the wreckage gathered upon it at Heppner, and it is estimated that it required at least one hour and 20 minutes for it to travel from Heppner to Lexington , owing to the loss of force by the widening of the valley and the constant damming process of the drift carried on the front of the flood. At Lexington the amount of water in the volume had been reduced to 800 acre feet from 1100 feet at Heppner. The fall from Heppner to Lexington is 55 feet to the mile and the creek bottom is much wider than above Heppner. Those who witnessed the flood say the entire volume passed a given point in Heppner in 50 minutes which would mean that over 70,000,000 pounds of water per minute passed through the town traveling at 12 miles per hour, at that point.
Heppner flood related headstones.
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