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Tourist drowns at Whalehead Beach

A Southern Oregon University student died at 2 p.m. Saturday at Whalehead Beach, eight miles north of Brookings, after he was caught in strong currents and pounding surf in the cold ocean water.

Alex Howell, 23, of Ashland and, Alex Smith, 22, of Medford, were visiting the coast with two other friends and decided to take a swim in the ocean. According to Oregon State Police and Curry County Sheriff’s reports, the two were about 75 yards offshore when Howell indicated he needed to get back to the beach.


Driver walks away from ‘weird’ wreck

David Godino waits to be extracted from his 1958 Thunderbird that crashed into a room at the Harbor Inn motel.

Dave Godino’s vintage 1958 Thunderbird is a wreck, but the Harbor resident walked away with only cuts and bruises after a two-car collision on Highway 101 Monday sent his classic car careening into a nearby motel room.

“I’ve got some aches and pains, but otherwise I’m feeling alright,” said Godino, 92, at the scene of the 1:30 p.m. accident at the intersection of Highway 101 and Benham Lane.

The driver of the other vehicle, Catherine Dean, 89, was transported to Sutter Coast Hospital with moderate injuries.


Nobody was in the Harbor Inn room when the car crashed into it. The occupants were out fishing, the motel manager said.


Ashland man drowns near Brookings

A Southern Oregon University student died at 2 p.m. Saturday at Whalehead Beach, eight miles north of Brookings, after he was caught in strong currents and pounding surf in the cold ocean water.

Sinkholes close Highway 101

ODOT workers on Thursday contemplate a landslide related to a nearby sinkhole that destroyed a section of Shopping Center Avenue near the Fireside Diner. That night Highway 101 was closed after a small sinkhole appeared in one of the northbound lanes.

A massive sinkhole and fast-moving landslide in Harbor Thursday destroyed part of one road, is approaching several businesses, and forced state officials to close Highway 101 for at least a week, and possibly longer.

Under an overcast sky Friday afternoon, officials with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) busily consulted each other about the sinkhole that had gobbled up most of the Fireside Diner’s parking lot, and a nearby landslide that swept away a section of Shopping Center Avenue.

Highway traffic is being diverted to Lower Harbor Road through the Port of Brookings Harbor and back to the highway via Benham Lane to the south, and at the Chetco River bridge to the north. 

The detour will remain in place while ODOT crews keep on eye on several lanes of Highway 101 near the South Coast Shopping Center that are in danger of being undermined by an underground culvert that was destroyed by torrential rains starting in December. By Friday the hole had grown from its original diameter of 10 feet to 80 feet, and was 55-feet deep. 


Challenges continue to dog health network

There’s lots of good — and not so good — news involving Curry Health District’s status with finances, the emergency room in Brookings, construction of the hospital, staff restructuring and other issues, which were outlined at a board meeting in Gold Beach Wednesday evening.

The emergency room at Curry Medical Clinic in Brookings will not open any time soon unless the district can find a financial partner or a philanthropy willing to invest in the project.

“Asante is interested; I’ve been meeting with them,” said CEO Ginny Razo. “We were contacted by Sutter (Coast Hospital) but haven’t reached back out. And we’re considering a philanthrophic platform, individual donors that could make significant contributions. With some funding, we can do some very creative things over there.”


Drive-up pot store in Gold Beach the first in the nation

Gold Beach will soon be home to the city’s first cannabis store — with a twist.

Green Life Oregon, located on Fourth Street across from the hospital, will feature cannabis products, inspired art — and a drive-up window, the first of its kind in the nation.

“I’ve seen the business plan, I’ve met the investors, and I believe this venture is going to be quite an asset to the area,” said Curry County Economic Development Director Julie Schmelzer. “Their plans for expansion and other amenities can help Gold Beach and the southwestern coast become a destination for those interested in the new green tourism we are fortunate to be a part of.”


Curry schools, governments brace for PERS hike

Public employers in Curry County will have to find more money — as much as $870 million — to pay for retirement benefits in the 2017-2018 budget, it was determined recently.

“Everyone’s worried about that,” said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman. “Who’s going to pay for that? It’s a huge question cities and counties are going to be wrestling with.”

The state Supreme Court ruling affects every public entity: counties, cities, schools, fire departments and others.

The court earlier this month overturned reform measures from 2013 that froze retirement cost of living expenses benefits to public employees.

It’s legally and financially complex, but the upshot is that cities, counties and schools will have to pay, beginning July 1, 2017, about 18 to 20 percent more in back benefits and cost-of-living increases to their employees.

And that will hit many cities, counties, schools and fire districts hard.


Update on Harbor sinkhole and Highway 101 closure

Highway 101 is closed due to a widening sinkhole and nearby landslide Friday.
VIDEO: Harbor Sinkhole, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016

 The stretch of Highway 101 closed due to a massive sinkhole in Harbor might open to two lanes within a week, but complete repairs aren’t expected until at least March, ODOT spokesman Jared Castle said early Friday morning.

Detour signs lead southbound drivers to Lower Harbor Road from the ramp at the south end of Chetco River Bridge. Northbound drivers are being diverted west onto Benham Lane, then to Oceanview and Lower Harbor Road to skirt the local disaster.


Widening sinkhole in Harbor forces closure of Highway 101

UPDATE: 7 p.m. — Highway 101 in Harbor will be closed at 9 p.m. Thursday — or earlier — because a widening sinkhole is threatening to undermine all four lanes, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Jared Castle.

Southbound motorists will be diverted to Lower Harbor Road at the south end of the Chetco River bridge, and northbound drivers at Benham Lane in Harbor to the port. The detour will be in place for at least a week, Castle said.

Meanwhile, Shopping Center Avenue, which runs parallel to the highway on the west side, is closed after a landslide about 50 feet from the sinkhole collapsed the entire road earlier this afternoon. The slide broke a local water main and is within 30 feet of the Rice Bowl restaurant to the south and and Hearing Health Care to the north.


Slide closes Shopping Center Avenue

A landslide took out a section of Shopping Center Avenue on Thursday afternoon. Photo by David Allen.

Oregon Department of Transportation workers scrambled Thursday afternoon after a slide on Shopping Center Avenue took out a section of pavement, while across Highway 101, another sinkhole developed.


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