Storm cleanup continues

Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer November 23, 2012 10:41 pm

Michael Daigan, chef at Oceanside Diner at the Port of Brookings Harbor, looked at the mud in his storage room Friday and sighed.

It was going to be another long day to try to get the restaurant open by today (Nov. 24) after a winter storm pummeled Curry County, leaving flooded homes, broken water mains and debris in its wake.

More than 8 inches of rain combined with winds up to 80 mph wreaked havoc along the Oregon Coast Sunday through Tuesday. In Curry County, emergency workers responded to landslides, flooding, cresting rivers and overflowing culverts.

A tree knocked a house from its foundation in Gold Beach, raging Hunter Creek water blew out a culvert over which RVs access Turtle Rock RV Resort and water flooded numerous businesses and homes.

People rowed in a canoe to rescue residents at AtRiver’s Edge on the south bank of the Chetco River, while water poured from the upper reaches onto North Bank Chetco Road, blocking all but four-wheel-drive traffic.

Wood pellets were used as sandbags at Fred Meyer, residents along Camelia Drive in Harbor were advised not to use their septic systems.

 At the Port of Brookings-Harbor two restaurant owners on Lower Harbor Road were sopping up inches of mud and water.

On Wednesday, workers from McLennan Excavating, hired on an emergency basis by the city of Brookings, busied themselves with a sinkhole on Ransom Avenue. Employees from Tidewater Contractors will begin work Monday at a sinkhole on Mill Beach Road.

City crews clearing debris from storm drain culverts around town discovered a third sinkhole, in a field behind McDonald’s Wednesday afternoon. A 42-inch storm drain collapsed and rock debris plugged 200 to 300 feet of pipeline about 90 percent.

“That explains why we had such a large volume of water sheet-flowing across this property and the U.S. Bank property and onto Railroad Avenue,” said City Manager Gary Milliman.

After further evaluation, however, Milliman said it would be a “major undertaking” to clear the plugged storm drain of rock and other debris.

 “We do not have the equipment to do this type of work, so we will be bringing in a contractor as we did when the storm drain through the city hall parking lot collapsed in November, 2010,” he  said.

The sinkhole at Ransom Avenue between Fern and Brook Haven is the only damage that will inconvenience the public.

“It spread overnight, and a wall fell into it at about 7:30 Tuesday night,” said Teri McGregor, overlooking what’s left of her backyard.

“I heard all this noise out here,” she said. “And then the wall went down. Now I’ve got waterfront property. It’s kind of exciting, but it could be worse. I could be one of my friends across the river.”

Cecil and Shirley Henderson were among those. The AtRiver’s Edge RV Resort residents had raised their shed 8 inches after the last flood, and water from this storm again got in.

“I thought I had everything done, then the damn wind came in,” Cecil said. “I’m tired.”

But the focus Wednesday was on a lift station on Beach Avenue that was ripped from its station in the floodwaters that also threatened to overwhelm the wastewater treatment plant.

Effluent flows into holding tanks at lift stations, where it is then hoisted to a gravity-flow sewer system.

“The land upon which the lift station was situated is gone,” Milliman said. “It’s a small structure, but what it was sitting on is gone, down the hill.”

In the short term, Roto-Rooter has been hired to pump out the holding tank and transport the effluent to a gravity flow site. By Wednesday, crews had installed a temporary station.

Replacing it will be another matter.

“It’s a significant design challenge,” Milliman said. “It’s very tight, then there’s a driveway and then a cliff. The challenge is to design a replacement. We’re not sure where we’re going with the new facility.”

Another issue public works officials are working on is a water main leak on Eastwood Drive that serves the Tidewater Reservoir and is reportedly causing the road to sink, as well. Workers Wednesday were digging into that area to see what needs to be repaired.

Water continued to pour across Mountain Drive, a private road, but one under which the city has a water main; public works officials are concerned about the stability of the road and the main, Milliman said.

Earlier this month, public works director Loree Pryce half-jokingly suggested the city council cross their fingers in hopes that no major infrastructure would break before the end of the year, after the council agreed to spend money to replace aerating fans at the wastewater treatment plant.

“There’s that,” Milliman said, with a chuckle. “Staff here is cranking out emergency work contracts.”

There is no estimate on damage costs inflicted by the storm. And city employees continued to discover new damage and evaluate systems for potential damage.

Milliman said city officials will address funding in upcoming weeks and hold an “after-action” meeting to evaluate where improvements might be needed in the drainage systems.

Teri Bangs, the American Red Cross Disaster Attack Team leader, was on hand at the shelter set up at the Catholic church on Old County Road.

“It’s been wild,” she said. “We’ve been holding our breath for the weather. People are doing OK; we’ve been here to help.”

Bangs said the group expected an influx of people after high tide forced the river to its highest point at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, and another when the wind started up again later, but only two people sought help.

“This is more widespread,” she said, when asked to compare it to floods in recent memory. “This has impacted more people. The problem is, with the holiday weekend, a lot of people are out of town and don’t know what they’re coming home to. An event like this, everyone’s displaced, whether they have a home or not.”

“This was an overwhelming event,” Milliman said, adding that paid employees and volunteers “worked together wonderfully” in responding to the problems. “This was an exceptional event.”