A Place For The Future Past

Flood, Part 2
December 16, 2007, 4:00 am
Filed under: Community On The Earth

02 Monday morning dawned, the power still off, still raining but much less now. Listening to the radio we heard that the Chehalis River had yet to crest and was threatening to cover parts of the interstate I-5, sixteen miles east from us. Locally, folks were forced to use the trail for access in and out, because Leudinghaus Rd was now under the Chehalis River– limited access at best. The warm winds continued to gust, threatening to bring down tall trees, the soil softened by the soaking rains. With them would come mudslides — and the sudden spiking of the temperature was closing the passes with avalanches as well as sending additional snowmelt downriver. Another nightfall approached and we were going to have to start rationing our candles and lamp oil and firewood.
03 Tuesday morning came and the waters began to recede. Our driveway waters drained away and Em and I began our initial lookabout — the layers of gravel and asphalt had been stripped away, down to subrock in places, and the debris left behind was scattered everywhere. A full cord of chopped wood was crammed up against what fence still remained alongside the south driveway along with a chair, tires, a culvert pipe, gates, fenceposts and wire from the neighbors field and assorted wood. At least we would stay warm again that night with all the wood. We climbed into the truck and ventured out to Leudinghaus Rd and joined the steady stream of returning neighbors, all in shock over what they were seeing. Enormous tree trunks jammed into windows and left on porches, cars scattered across fields and left to rest upside down in ditches, barns shifted from their foundations or just plain gone and animals missing — the few remaining were thick with oily mud. A tree was dangling from useless wires above the shattered road, huge spans of asphalt had been lifted up and deposited in nearby fields along with drifts of gravel and rock. Three local bridges were gone, their banks littered with debris. The seas of thick brown mud covering fields, roads, yards — edged with piles of wood and building and household debris. House after house had waterlines of where knee, chest, over-the-head high waters had been. And pasture after pasture with destroyed or missing fencing that were now empty or depleted of stock. Horses, cows, goats, pigs, turkeys, chickens, emus — dead or just gone. We returned home in silence, it was too late to try to venture any further (we did not dare try after dark), but I was resolved to try and find a back road out the very next day. Surely all these local good ol boys, local hunters and loggers familiar with the maze of logging and secondary roads north of us would know a way out. Listening to the radio we heard that the National Guard had been mobilized, the county was being declared a federal disaster area.
04 Wednesday morning dawned chilly and foggy. We still had the essentials; water, food, firewood, livestock feed — but the temperature was forecasted to plummet in the days ahead to below freezing. Em and I fed early and were packed with emergency supplies for the trip out. Since we still did not have power, a generator was topping the list of supplies we were determined to get. Since the interstate was still closed as far north as the Hwy 12 junction, it was determined to travel north to Rochester then climb onto Hwy 12 there, then on to Olympia (I knew it would be a lost cause to try and buy a generator any closer to home) We took a few photos on the way out, but did not linger long — it was absolutely necessary to be back home by dark — and being December that would be early, about 4:30 — 5:00. We followed the map along eerily deserted roads and only had to turn back once — the way to Rochester was blocked by a massive washout, we were forced to travel first to the back of Centralia but allowed to take I-5 north from there to Tumwater, where we found a Costco that had a precious generator. For the first time we encountered the outside world — we felt completely incongruous — two filthy bedraggled women climbing out of a mud covered small pickup amidst crowds of shiny clean people. All we had to say was that we were from the flood zone and enthusiastic, helpful folk rushed to help find what we came to get. We loaded the Costco supplies, filled gas containers then went further north to get marine batteries, lamp oil, flashlight and radio batteries, candles, food. We met a few angels along the way — a good ol boy who redirected us when we made a wrong turn on the trip back home, two other scruffy folk (instinctively we knew THEY could not be of the shiny peoples) who kindly shared their knowledge of the back roads — these two guys, interestingly enough, we kept running into during our all-day shopping trip.
We made it back home just as dark was falling and Red got the generator up and running almost right away, the precious stream of power sent first to the main freezer full of our winter supply of venison, elk and goat meat, vegetables and breads, milk, etc.


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