CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. -- Some who live and work in the Columbia River Gorge are concerned about a powerful storm that could dump up to three inches of rain on the western end where hillsides are still recovering from a massive fire last summer.
On a hillside near Sheppards Dell, several stumps show where trees were recently cut. Very few plants survived the fire that rolled through. Without the plants, it’s harder for soil and rock to stay put during heavy rains.
It’s a small example that hints at the hidden risk in thousands of spots in the gorge.
It's something that worries many who live and work in the gorge. It also worries leaders at the Oregon Department of Transportation.
“We’re watching this very carefully right now,” said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton.
Some of the bare hillsides are right next to Interstate 84.
“We’ve been looking at the rain forecast, we’re concerned about high winds. And everything in the Gorge right now is dependent on the effects of the fire,” Hamilton said.
The fire blew up on Labor Day 2017, fueled by the famously strong winds of the gorge.
The destruction led to the logging of thousands of damaged trees in danger of falling on the Interstate or the historic highway next to it.
Some of the work is still going on. And now the rain is on the way.
It’s yet another thing to worry about for David Lipps, co-owner of Thunder Island Brewery in Cascade Locks.
“Yes. We've had our share of disaster and its last year and this year,” Lipps said.
When the fire closed the interstate last summer his business took a nose dive.
Its back now, and Lipps hopes the hills will stay put during the big rain.
“Yeah with all the stuff happening in California that's definitely a big concern,” said Lipps.
“So we're just keeping our ear to the ground.”