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Diana Roberts went to sleep on a peninsula and woke up on an island.

The 37-year-old homeless woman was camping at Shawala Point, where the Marys and Willamette rivers come together at the skate park in downtown Corvallis.

When she bedded down in her tent Tuesday night, the rivers were high but still inside their banks. When she got up Wednesday morning, a broad ribbon of fast-moving water several feet deep was flowing through the skate park, leaving her trapped on a small and shrinking patch of high ground.

“I woke up and the river was right there,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, s--t — I’m going to have to go swimming!’”

It didn’t come to that.

A friend, Dwight Parish, said he was at the skate park about 9 a.m. and heard Roberts calling for help. He asked a passer-by with a phone to call 911.

The Corvallis Police Department sent several patrol vehicles to the scene, and the Corvallis Fire Department arrived with a small inflatable boat. Two firefighters and a police officer rowed across the flood channel and brought Roberts, wrapped in blankets beneath a life jacket, across to safety. Most of her belongings were left behind.

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Roberts was greeted by cheers and applause from a small crowd of onlookers who had gathered to watch the unfolding drama.

She also got a pair of tickets from waiting police — one for illegal camping and one for littering — and a lecture about safety from Sgt. Joel Goodwin. He also reminded her that she could go to the nearby Corvallis Daytime Drop-In Center to get of the cold.

Goodwin told the newspaper that police had been trying to clear homeless campers out of the area since last week and had made a special effort on Tuesday afternoon to urge everyone in the area — including Roberts — to move to higher ground.

“We came out (Tuesday) warning folks: you need to move, it’s not safe,” Goodwin said.

Most of the homeless campers in the area heeded that warning, as evidenced by the row of tents under the Highway 34 Bypass in the skate park, just out of the reach of rising waters on Wednesday.

Goodwin said police were trying to give people time to relocate but would proceed with a planned cleanup of the area next week with crews from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Corvallis Parks & Rec.

“What we’re trying to do is get people engaged with services,” he said. “In the end, if they choose not to do that, that’s up to them.”

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Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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