A Place For The Future Past

Flood, part 1
December 16, 2007, 3:59 am
Filed under: Community On The Earth

00 Saturday I worked at my shop, came home an hour early, stopping for supplies — there was a storm coming and we needed to be stocked up and I wanted to be home. All that night it rained HARD. It was a warm rain, the snow level suddenly spiked from 2500 to 8500 ft.

01 By morning the streams were all full and rushing fast — water over our upper driveway (not unusual) but also over the south end of our lower driveway — NOT usual. During a break in the rain, Em and I walked down the south driveway (at the lowest part it was just over boot top deep) and I picked up my mail — Leudinghaus Rd was dry at that point, but we could see down the road (west) was underwater, how much we couldn’t tell — but there was an emergency vehicle on the other side, parked and lights flashing. We were intensely curious about what they’d have to say, but we decided not to walk on down — too far (it turned out that what I thought was standing water was the bridge over the feeder creek was underwater — and it was very fast water at that). It was when we started into the park through the back that we stopped short — the immense pool of brown water reached almost to the back edge of the park, and we couldn’t see the other side. Were we looking at the new edge of the Chehalis? Time to go back up the drive and uphill again!

We still had power, but the storm wasn’t over yet — the wind wasn’t supposed to start picking up until later that afternoon. Ten a.m. I decided to saddle up the horse and ride the trail west to the Doty General store (Em was out of cigarettes). Chance was willing enough to be caught and lead up to the barn, even tacked up. But when we headed out the barn door the wind started gusting up and both of us reconsidered. But I figured that if there was ANY trouble or problem we’d head back — and the experience would be good for him, we were both getting rusty (we used to do mounted Search and Rescue years ago).

On the traIl we encountered our neighbor to the south on his motorbike — something Chance did not like at all. After an initial balk, he followed through with my order and while Joe stopped and waited, bike idling as we passed him, Chance immediately settling down after that. When Joe rode past us (from behind on our right, I had waved him through) Chance merely flinched but did not break stride from his relaxed walk. GOOD BOY!

We crossed Chandler road, noting that the water was a foot from the top of the street sign and over the bridge, hmm not good. The homes along the way were threatened with water or already being flooded. From our elevated place we could see far down the Dryad-Doty road — was it clear enough to try that way? I was loathe to leave the trail and choose the longer road — if clear we’d have to share with traffic. We continued down the trail and entered the bend before the 80 ft. trestle bridge — it used to be a railroad but had been converted to a bridge for horse and foot traffic as well as non motorized cyclists.

Coming closer, I did a Winny the goat thing — one of our goat babies turns her head sideways when she looks and bleats at us, and I was turning my head this way and that trying to figure out what I was seeing — or rather, NOT seeing — the trestle! We advanced cautiously and I was stunned to realize (as a HUGE tree floated past, eye level) that the bridge was completely gone — ripped from the other side and laid out flat along the bank. Enormous trees and debris continued to rush past — the water was only a few feet from the top, about twenty feet or so above its usual level. There was nothing to do but turn and go back.

The wind continued to gust and I eyed the trees nervously, Em would not get her cigarettes today. Closer to home Chance and I helped a neighbor herd up a trio of escaping goats before heading on home. From our vantage point of the trail I could see the extent of water over our neighbor’s property, south of us — fields were flooded but houses might be spared. We headed on home, Chance was happy to be put away and I was happy to be home too. Nothing to do but wait for the waters to recede.

Mom had been given her lunch and Em, Red and I were up in the yurt when we became aware of a new sound — a rushing, roaring sound. Was it the forecasted windstorm? I went to the door and looked towards my left to the trees there — they were still and quiet. The noise continued, on my right. It was hard to grasp the obvious, I didn’t want to believe what I was clearly hearing — we could now hear the river from where we were standing — almost a quarter mile away! We could hear the river it sounded like the pounding crashing surf of the ocean — and it was so loud we had to speak up to be heard. It was about two p.m. when the crunching BOOM was heard — the Chandler bridge was ripped from the far end and like the trail trestle bridge, laid out flat along the river’s bank. And just as suddenly we lost power.

Em and I went for a walk as far as the trail crossing of our driveway — where we had earlier been standing at my mailbox was now chest deep and flowing fast. The new edge of the Chehalis was now two-thirds up my south (about 100 ft long) driveway. Em and I could hear my neighbors cattle crying in distress, but it was impossible to cross the raging river across the fields to save them. Every house below the trail would be in the path of this new surge (we learned later that the upriver levees had given way, raising the waters an additional ten feet or so). I looked at Em, her face was ashen — I knew mine was too — as awful and destructive as this flow before us was here, we both knew that down the river it would be catastrophic.

The river raged on, churning noisily, taking tons and tons of debris with it. About three P.M. we could hear helicopters, passing back and forth — stopping over houses to begin rescue operations, plucking our downhill neighbors from the roofs of their submerged homes. As darkness began to fall the choppers continued their work. About 9 p.m. they made a pass over our place but we were not leaving. After they left I took a flashlight to walk down and check the horses — Chance and Jennifer were happy to see me, being buzzed by helicopters could not have been fun for them. It was still raining but not as hard as before and they were both warm, so I went back up to my candle-lit home to stoke the fire and wait until morning.


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