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Major Floods
. . . . Columbus Day Storm

The Oaks was built on the banks of the Willamette (will-am-ett) River in 1905. Since that time, there have been 3 major floods. Flood stage occurs when the water reaches 21.22 feet.

1948 Flood - closed the park and rink (video below was made from 1948 movie footage and still photos. Note sandbags were placed on the skating floor in an unsuccessful attempt to preserve it);

The worse damage was sustained during the May 30, 1948 Vanport Flood (first major flood in Oaks history), the river crested at 33.47 feet. Waters stayed in the rink over 30 days and, despite all attempts to preserve the skating floor, it was lost. During reconstruction of the floor the ends were rounded.

The rink re-opened Thursday, October 21, 1948 with Pete Kraushaar at the Mighty 4-keyboard Pipe Organ.

Robert and his employees brainstormed on how to prevent that degree of loss in the future. They came up with attaching about 200 sealed, empty 55-gallon drums under the floor. The idea was to enable the floor to float with the aid of the drums.

1958 Flood waters entered the park; however, they were not deep enough to close the rink to club skaters.

Columbus Day (October 12, 1962) a strong windstorm destroyed many trees in the park (pictures to be added).

December of 1964 was the next major flood with the river cresting at 30.50 feet. 1964 Flood - it closed the park and rink (pictures to be added) plus tested the 1948 ideas to save the skating floor.

As soon as notice of an upcoming flood was received, employees and dedicated skaters set to work to cut the floor free and move equipment and files to a safe height. Many of these items were put on the floor. Rental skates were put into large garbage cans and used to keep the floor level while floating.

While the 1964 flood waters receded, divers were hired to remove debris preventing the floor from going back into position. The guides to help keep the floor from twisting while afloat can be seen in the 1996 video.

Based on the 1948 and 1964 floods, maroon tile were installed on the front wall of the rink representing the heights of the 1948 (highest line) and 1964 (lower line) flood waters reached. Employees use these rows of tile as a guide when preparing for possible future flood.

Over the next 32 years, several dams were built to manage the water flow of the Willamette River yet in 1996 the river flooded again, cresting at 31.80 feet.

1996 Flood - closed the park and rink (video below);

The below 1996 video gives a better idea of the hard work and time required to prepare for and clean up after a flood. Employees and patrons (whether still skating or retired) demonstrated their love for The Oaks.

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Updated 12/07/2014 |