ODOT prepares for potential of heavy rain in wildfire areas

With significant rainfall in the forecast this weekend, the Oregon Department of Transportation said it’s gearing up to keep drivers safe on the roads.

Posted: Sep 16, 2021 11:02 AM

GLENWOOD, Ore. -- With significant rainfall in the forecast this weekend, the Oregon Department of Transportation said it’s gearing up to keep drivers safe on the roads.

Kevin Finch, ODOT’S incident commander for the Holiday Farm Fire, said substantial rainfall hasn’t been seen since June, which means the rain will lift up oil and grime and make the roads slick.

ODOT also put precautions in place to prevent slides and erosion, especially along burned-out areas of Highway 126 in the McKenzie Valley. Crews have been working in that area since shortly after the fire to remove dead and hazard trees. Finch said around 80% of that work has been completed.

“Every storm - no matter how minor - we always preposition equipment, and we always put equipment in the area where we think there could be some concern or some issue, and this is no different,” Finch said.

Finch said the McKenzie Bridge maintenance crew will have an employee on-call this weekend to respond to any concerns. Dump trucks and other heavy machinery are ready to respond to slides.

Finch said the threat from the rain should be lower than last year because some vegetation has already grown back and improved soil stability.

“On the areas we've disturbed - specifically hillsides - we've left some woody debris, like some limbs and stuff like that to try to protect that soil from any big rainfall or snow event,” Finch said.

Wood chips have also been used to add another layer of protection. Finch said drivers should slow down during large rain events and check the conditions before hitting the road.

More tips from ODOT:

Be aware of conditions

  • Rain can create dangerous driving conditions with reduced visibility, reduced traction between tires and the road.
  • When it’s raining, be cautious and give yourself more time to get where you are going.
  • Slow down, especially through standing water. Driving through several inches of water at high speeds can cause you to lose control. Lowering your speed helps you watch out for sudden stops caused by disabled cars, debris and other hazards.
  • Turn on your headlights to improve visibility. Disengage your cruise control.
  • Watch your following distance. A vehicle needs two to three times more stopping distance on wet roads.
  • Watch for emergency responders. Slow down! Give them space to work and move over!

Maintain your vehicle

  • Check your wiper blades. Replace wiper blades regularly. Make sure your defroster is functioning properly, especially if you haven’t used it in a while.
  • Check your brakes after driving through a puddle; make sure the brakes are working properly by tapping them gently a few times.
  • Check your tire tread. Make sure tires are in good condition and are at the recommended inflation level. Tires should have at least 1/32 of an inch tread depth at any two adjacent grooves, the minimum allowable by law. Driving on over-inflated or under-inflated tires is dangerous on wet pavement.

Watch for hydroplaning conditions

  • Hydroplaning occurs when your front tires surf on a film of water. It can occur at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour, especially if tires are worn.
  • If you hydroplane, ease off the gas, gently apply the brakes and steer straight.

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