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Area schools deal with flood impact

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  • 1 min to read
Touchet River in Dayton

Touchet River under the Main Street bridge in Dayton this morning.

Area school officials are dealing with flood conditions, even as all local superintendents reported no school facilities have yet been affected by rising river and creek levels.

Athena-Weston Superintendent Laure Quaresma decided Thursday night to close her schools for Friday due to water on bridges and roadways.

Weston’s Water Street has standing water that makes bus passage unsafe and the Pine Creek area has been hit hard by flooding, she said.

“Those roads closed down yesterday and we could not get kids home, they had to go to relatives’ houses. We had one family where the dad was on the roof, waiting for a helicopter to rescue him.”

That came with flooding of the small community of Thorn Hollow near Weston, and the resulting collapse of its bridge Thursday. Two of the district’s bus routes rely on that bridge; the district will need to devise alternate routes, Quaresma said.

“We’ve been told the river has yet to crest.”

In Dayton, Superintendent Doug Jouhnson said none of the district’s schools are in danger of flood waters, but road conditions in the area create too much uncertainty to open the schools.

“Trying to get people in and out of town and without knowing what’s going to happen the rest of the day, and if people could get back and forth, it’s not worth it.”

Just eight miles away on U.S. Highway 12, Superintendent Mark Pickel of the Waitsburg School District is seeing a similar situation.

There is a slight concern about Waitsburg High School, which sits a bit lower than his other two schools, Pickel said, but the real issue is transportation.

All of Highway 12 going through the town is closed at the moment, along with a bridge at the north end of Main Street, he said, noting the Waitsburg’s churches have opened doors to any displaced families.

In Milton-Freewater Unified School District, Superintendent Aaron Duff said that while he is not concerned about his four school buildings, he is unwilling to put students in staff in any danger getting to or from school.

Not is he willing to gamble on today’s weather and what it might bring, Duff said.

“If we had to evacuate, I couldn’t do that quickly enough.”

Walla Walla Public Schools and College Place Public Schools districts are almost business-as-usual today.

Superintendent Wade Smith said his district’s Mill Creek bus route is modified because of serious flooding in that area. Buses will stop at Klicker’s Berries & Antiques the end of Isaacs Avenue for those families.

Students of College Place Public Schools were already scheduled to be out of school today as staff has professional development, Superintendent James Fry said.

“So we kind of lucked out.”

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 509-526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.