Flooding, slides and sinkholes
Written by Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer   
November 21, 2012 10:31 am

Evie and Dennis Peterson, residents living in trailer at AtRivers Edge RV Resort near Brookings on the Chetco River, awoke at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning to a text message from their son asking if they were okay.

“I opened the door and saw that the first step was completely under water,” Evie said. “The river was flowing all around us. In the four years we’ve lived here, I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The couple didn’t realize that an overnight storm had dumped at least six inches of rain in less than 10 hours, causing the rain-swollen Chetco to exceed flood level. Up to 10 inches of rain likely fell in the mountains upriver. 

The couple quickly dressed, waded through knee-high water with their three dogs to reach their vehicles, which they drove through the swirling water to higher ground.

“There was water in the cab of the truck; it almost didn’t start,” Evie said. 

Dennis added, “The water rose at least a foot with within 20 minutes of waking up and looking out the door.”

The Peterson’s were not alone. 

Nearby neighbors Larry and Nancy Bell were trapped by rain-swollen river water that had completely surrounded their park model.

The Curry County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue launched a drift boat in an effort to reach them, but a 4-wheel-drive truck driven by the father of another resident pushed through the water, retrieved the Bells and their pet cat and dog, and delivered them to higher ground. 

The search and rescue members retrieved the man’s son and continued to float around to other inundated trailers and park models, making sure nobody else was trapped inside.

Connie Law, co-owner of AtRivers Edge, said she tried to contact all the residents Monday evening to warn them about the possibility of the river exceeding flood stage.

“Some residents moved their rigs to higher ground before nightfall, others decided to take their chances, I guess,” Law said. 

She spent most of Tuesday helping resident find places for their RV, boats and other belongings on areas of the property that were above the water.

Also Tuesday morning, dozens of residents left their homes on the north bank of the Chetco River as it overflowed its banks and dozens of tributaries overflowed into backyards and front yards. No injuries were reported. 

Throughout the morning Tuesday flooding was being reported county wide in Brookings, Gold Beach, Pistol River, the Port of Brookings Harbor and the Winchuck River. 

The city of Brookings reported that storm runoff had pushed the wastewater plant to near capacity overnight and that morning. A sinkhole opened up on Ransom Avenue where a culvert gave way.

The Brookings-Harbor School District cancelled school for the day as buses were unable to pick up students. 

Traffic along North Bank Chetco River Road was being restricted to four-wheel-drive vehicles from Azalea Park to Riverside Market, which itself was flooded. Vehicles were banned from areas under the Chetco River Bridge for a few hours.

As of Tuesday evening, the rainfall had subsided and the flooding streams and rivers had dropped by a few feet, but many homes and businesses were still surrounded by or flooded with water.

The flooding followed on the heels of a storm front that pummel the county Monday evening, bringing winds of up to 46 mph in Brookings and nearly 70 mph in Gold Beach and Port Orford.

While wind damage was minimal in Brookings and Harbor Monday, in Gold Beach a hillside house was knocked off its foundation by a fallen tree, part of the animal shelter facility was damaged, and downed trees knocked out power in localized areas.

At AtRivers Edge Tuesday morning, Curry County Sheriff John Bishop observed efforts to evacuate residents.

“I’ve never seen the water that high up there,” Bishop said.

While rain is still in the forecast for the next several days, the heavy rains are not predicted to return. The Pilot’s downtown weather station measured 3.2 inches on Monday and 2.5 inches since midnight today, with peak gusts of more than 40 mph.