A Place For The Future Past

Flood, Aftermath
December 27, 2007, 2:32 am
Filed under: Community On The Earth

Christmas has come and gone, and life on Leudinghaus Rd has been struggling to achieve a sense of normalcy. Many homes closest to the river carry the dreaded orange condemned placard and await demolishing and removal. Others have had drywall, insulation and cabinetry removed and are getting rebuilt. Slowly and from the inside out repairs continue — many homes are empty at night, the families living elsewhere while work is being done. Others have RVs parked outside, with portapotties on site as well as giant trash bins. The yards and pastures remain muddy, debris strewn and fence-less — the cattle roam from field to field — today Em and I watched as a HUGE black bull ambled leisurely across his familiar field towards his “herd”, unconcerned that there was no longer fencing to keep him close. Where would he go? All the gardens have been swept away.Here at Dryad’s Rest we are an oasis of calm and normal routine. The woods kept our own rain runoff from getting out of hand and returned to as they were before. The Chehalis River took away part of our driveway but the property itself was unaffected — mostly. On the front door is the only clue — Instead of a pine bough wreath is a printed placard warning folks to disinfect their shoes.

The local road crews have been hard at work — and now we have a replacement bridge in place, where the Meskill Hill (Leudinghaus Rd) bridge had been is now a new one-lane bridge — if possible even narrower than the one before. At last we don’t have to use the long twisty back road over Elk Creek — over a truly scary bridge. Badly damaged and temporarily shored up, it now has to endure far less traffic (whew). And now I can call the Chehalis Post Office to have my mail service restored — a step closer to normal life.

Heavy rains swell the rivers instantly though — signs that damage has been done to the local lowland topsoil, the heavy thick mud not allowing rain to penetrate instead collecting in slimy pools or running straight to the creeks and rivers and fields. Some folks have begun pushing the mud into large mounds, disposal will be an issue. But it is too soon to worry about the mud, first come the homes and making them livable again. Hopefully as spring approaches there will be the opportunity to deal with the ever present mud. Chicken coops remain empty as do many barns. Solstice has come, Spring is long time away.

I did have a rather interesting conversation with the neighborhood fire captain — someone in charge at the local disaster command center — about the nature and timeline of the flood. Approaching as something of a newcomer to the area (which I am) I had a copy of a detailed map in hand — the same one Em and I had been using to mark ways out via logging and back roads, now with a tracery of blue marking pen, marking the route of the Chehalis River. We are located near the middle of the west fork of the Chehalis.
I asked, I know what caused the great pile of wood debris that tore up the south (east) fork of the river — but what happened on our side? Lots of rain, lots of snowmelt was the easy answer.
Too Easy — I pointed out that the morning after the night of heavy rains we had lots of standing water and the feeder creeks were full to capacity but Leudinghaus Rd itself was high and dry. But at mid afternoon we had a surge of flood water that rose ten to fifteen feet — where had THAT come from? He explained that there had been a massive mudslide farther upriver — further than PeEll that formed a ‘natural’ dam in a narrow canyon — tons of earth and dirt clooging the bed of the river. After building for several hours it broke free, tearing out the hillside and moving tons of earth trres brush and muddy water. I asked, where had all that wood come from? From alongside the river was again the too quick reply.

I had heard this exact phrase used before, by loggers who felt the states insistance that several hundred feet of land on either side of creeks and rivers be left alone and unlogged was unreasonably restrictive. Whatever. I pointed out that during our drive across the shattered landscape that was Boistfort, we could see in the acres of wood were many logs that had been cut, not ripped. Also that during a visit to the FEMA office I had the chance to talk with other folks — and one lady had told me that a stockpile up near Stillman Creek had lost part of its collection to landslide.

Meanwhile, an old timer nearby had come up to listen and he confirmed that yes, there had been a stockpile up there. And the fireman we had been speaking with reluctantly assented. So I asked, is there more? Stockpiled wood up there? Yes, many yards full, that they were unable to access because of the washed out roads and unstable terrain (oh REALLY!).
The old timer brought up the next obvious point — that with another hard series of heavy rain, the same thing could happen again, many of the same conditions remained in place. And the fireman we had been speaking with again reluctantly assented.
Thank you, I said, you have answered my questions.
By now there was a small cluster of folks listening in on the conversation. I thanked the fireman and old timer and we went home.

Is it possible I am the only one asking these questions? Oh my, I hope not.


4 Comments so far
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Hello – I was fascinated and horrified to read about your flood report. You see… We have been seriously considering a property to buy on Leudinghaus Road, right next to the park, that we hoped to run as a boarding stable. In researching the flood risk there, though, I found your blog. I’d be very interested in your report, if any of what happened at this property:

579 Leudinghaus Rd, Pe Ell WA 98572 | Homes.com

Comment by Diana

It is a beautiful property, I drive past it every day. Floods as extreme as what we went through in 2007 are very rare. The place you mention was hit pretty hard — they had just put it on the market, all spruced up, when the floods came. They lost two horses, as far as I know.
What happened was not just the sudden high temps and heavy rain, but the sudden release of tons of debris, dammed by slides created by clear cutting IMO (upsteam) where it should never have been cleared. It is highly unlikely that such a unfortunate combination happen any time soon…you are likely to get a good deal on it now…

Comment by wolffood

I’m sure it is a good deal, and perhaps someone else will make it work, but I decided not to risk it. There are enough uncontrollable events in life without inviting more.

As a boarding stable, I want to be the high and dry place people can evacuate horses *to*… not the one who needs to evacuate horses.

I appreciate your response, and your interesting tale of your events that happened.

Comment by Diana

I understand, I would feel the same way, I like being on my hillside. Yes, that place has a tragic history. Good luck on your search, there are many other beautiful — and safer – places out there…

Comment by wolffood

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