County officials to declare local emergency

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer November 21, 2012 10:22 am

The Curry County Board of Commissioners are expected to declare a state of emergency today (Nov. 21) after County Roadmaster Dan Crumley outlined some of the damage done by the season’s first winter storm Monday and Tuesday.

“The Chetco River is higher today than in anyone’s memory,” Crumley told commissioners David Itzen and George Rhodes at a meeting Tuesday. “I think we need to make an emergency declaration.”

The commissioners will vote on the declaration at 9 a.m. today. Rhodes said there was little chance they wouldn’t adopt it. The City of Brookings urged the county to adopt it, as well.

“There’s sufficient evidence this is justified,” Itzen said. “Old-timers here are saying they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Such a declaration would be submitted to the state, and is the first step toward seeking state and federal disaster assistance, said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman.

On Tuesday, the American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at the Curry County Fairgrounds in Gold Beach and at the Catholic Church in Brookings for people displaced by flooding or other disasters.

Among the worst of the damage was a house that was knocked off its foundation in Gold Beach by a fallen tree, mudslides along Highway 101 and the banks of the Chetco River, flooding of several businesses throughout the county, a blown-out culvert at Turtle Rock RV Park south of Gold Beach and a sinkhole on Ransom Avenue in Brookings and extensive flooding everywhere else.

Brookings

The rainfall raised the level of the Chetco River to 24 feet by noon Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of residents at At River’s Edge RV Park and parts of North Bank Chetco Road. Numerous reports of flooding at individual homes were reported throughout the city.

At one point, the City of Brookings was preparing a plan to shut down the water line coming into town to avoid water loss in the event of a wash-out along the Chetco River.

Tuesday morning a sinkhole developed around a 72-inch storm drain that collapsed on both sides of Ransom Avenue near Easy Street. Portions of the sidewalk, trees and a smaller storm pipe also collapsed into the sink hole, forcing the city to shut off a water main that was left suspended across the hole.

Also, a culvert collapsed on Mill Beach Road, causing another sinkhole.

“Our storm drain system was simply overwhelmed by the volume of water delivered by this storm,” Milliman said.

He authorized emergency contracts with Tidewater Contractors to work on the culvert on Mill Beach Road, and with McLennan Contractors on the Ransom Avenue sinkhole.

“We had 20 significant calls for service due to street and building flooding on Ransom and Chetco avenues,” Milliman wrote in an email. 

A control panel for the Beach Avenue sewage lift station slid down a cliff toward Ransom Creek.

A wall adjacent to the Brookhaven residential community was also in danger of collapsing. 

More than 6.5 inches of rain per hour fell at 7:45 Monday night in Brookings, saturating the ground. In the next 15 minutes, that rate slowed to 5 inches per hour, but the water had nowhere to go. Another downpour, at rates of between 4.8 and 6 inches an hour, fell between 6 and 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and further compounded the problems.

City Parks Supervisor Tony Baron went to Gold Beach to pick up 1,000 sandbags at the county yard as the city had used its entire inventory.

The Chetco River rose 7 feet over the weekend, to 24 feet by Tuesday morning and was expected to rise another foot with the high tide by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, the Napa Auto Parts store on Chetco Avenue and an adjacent building flooded. Water levels threatened the doors to Fred Meyer. The intersection at Fifth and Railroad streets was impassable. A partial roof collapse was reported at the Rush Center on Chetco Avenue, and crews cleared debris from Old County Road near Marine Drive where later the city received a report of  “sinking” near a water main.

According to Ray Page, the city’s wastewater treatment plant superintendent, the facility reached peak capacity at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“The water intake is inaccessible,” he wrote in a report. “I have the intake generator shut down via computer and the water plant generator shut down manually at the site due to the power being out at 10 of our sites.” 

Gold Beach, Pistol River

North of Brookings, Pistol River and Hunter creeks were muddying the ocean waves. Dan Dresser, manager of Turtle Rock RV Park stood by the raging Hunter Creek threating nearby park models and shrugged his shoulders.

“If it floats, it floats,” he said. “If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

A culvert at the RV park there washed away when Hunter Creek crested its banks and flooded the road to a depth of about 8 inches. Two planks served as a footbridge for people to get across the 10-foot span.

Dresser’s trailer was up to his chest in water.

Llamas in the field at Pistol River stood like sentinels as flood waters flowed around their legs and mired them in mud.

“Crazy,” said Brett Kerr of Kerr’s Auto and Truck on Hunter Creek Road south of Gold Beach, who was hosing down the interior of his shop of six inches of rainwater. “What a mess. I’ve lived here 33 years and I’ve never seen anything this high.”

South Coast Lumber on the same road was flooded, as well, and numerous workers there were hosing down the lumber yard and squeegeeing the floors of the store.

Catherine Powers of Pennies for Pooches animal shelter in Gold Beach, said 80 mph winds Tuesday afternoon ripped the flashing off the animal shelter’s roof. The remaining flashing was slapping against the building, riling up the dogs.

“They keep barking when they hear it,” she said Monday morning. “To them, someone’s knocking on the door. But they’re all snuggled in.”

Doghouses in the kennels had been blown about, as well.

Everything else was still intact, including the kennels, which had recently been reinforced with rebar, she said. She called back 10 minutes later on Tuesday to say that the kennels had just blown down.

Gold Beach Police Chief Dixon Andrews said a metal shed blew apart and tumbled down Seventh Street toward Highway 101 in Gold Beach Monday morning. It struck several vehicles before it hit a man in the head; he was taken care of by bystanders.

“I don’t have to tell you the danger of sharp metal flying through the air,” Andrews said. “It’s whipping out there.”

On Monday, a woman at McKay’s grocery store opened the rear window of the topper on her truck only to have the whole thing ripped off in the wind.

 Later that afternoon, a tree fell onto a home on First Street, knocking it off its foundation. The house, overlooking Buffington Park, is now canted at a 30-degree angle and appears to be buckling, Andrews said.

“People don’t understand these winds, especially down here,” Powers said. “And it’s just the beginning. This happens every year.”

And then came the bomb threat at the County Courthouse (See related story, page 1A.)

Forecast

According to the National Weather Service, water levels in the Chetco are predicted to decline steadily after this storm front moves through early Wednesday.

The Oregon Department of Geology issued an alert for the increased potential for landslides and debris flow in upcoming days, as sporadic rain was predicted today and the first part of Thursday.

Officials said structures and roads below steep slopes can be at serious risk from landslides with the most dangerous areas including stream channels, the bases of steep hillsides, road cuts where hills have been excavated and places were slides have occurred before.

“But things are good,” Curry County Roadmaster Crumley said Tuesday. “Rivers are going down, evacuations have been taken care of.”