Residents still digging out from last week’s storm

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer November 27, 2012 10:51 pm

Rick Duerfeldt walks uphill in his living room that, along the rest of his North Bank Chetco River Road home, was lifted up by a hillside that pushed the home off it’s foundation. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
Rick Duerfeldt walks uphill in his living room that, along the rest of his North Bank Chetco River Road home, was lifted up by a hillside that pushed the home off it’s foundation. The Pilot/Jane Stebbins
Don Mitchell has no idea what he’s going to do if the predicted 10 to 14 inches of rain falls this week on top of soil saturated by the season’s first winter storm that left homes flooded and created landslides last week.

“Stay put, I guess,” he said with a laugh.

An unprecedented winter storm that struck the coast of the Pacific Northwest with up to 8 inches of rain flooded homes, broke culverts and left some people hanging – literally.

Rick Duerfeldt’s home, located behind Riverside Market on North Bank Chetco River Road, is among the worst.

His cat, Meadow Kitty, woke him up at about 5 a.m. Tuesday to his house buckling and sliding.

“It was surreal,” he said. The place got hit, it was lifted up and moved 24 feet in a matter of moments. My bed was four feet off the ground. I opened the door and started crying. I was traumatized.”

The hill behind him had slid, pushing his house off the foundation and bringing an electrical pole along with it. His concrete water cistern hangs precariously above.

His telescope and bookcase are tightly pinned between the living room floor and the wall. His collection of leaded glass is in pieces. Books are scattered everywhere; his carpet is soaked. His deck and home are at a 45-degree angle to each other. 

“It’s pretty amazing I didn’t get hurt,” Duerfeldt said. “Not a single scratch.”

He’s cleared trees, had rock delivered to the road and is staying with neighbors. The house is a total loss.

The decks of two homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean are now a little closer to the edge of the cliff, as well, their soil having slid away in landslides from the oversaturated ground. In addition to the rainfall, the water apparently came from a plugged culvert on Memory Lane that flowed downhill, through peoples’ houses and to the sea.

Mitchell was one of four along Buena Vista Loop in Brookings affected by that water.

And more rain is in the forecast: Forecasters are calling for 10 to 14 inches throughout the week and through the weekend. Winds of 40 to 50 miles an hour with gusts of 60 to 70 mph are expected to arrive tonight (Wednesday), and flood warnings are in effect from Thursday morning through Friday evening.

The rainfall would come on top of damaging rain from early last week, causing more pressure on saturated soils, open slide faces and already swollen creeks and streams.

People are preparing better this time.

Kerr’s Ace Hardware in Brookings has been selling shovels, brooms, dustpans, trashbags, weather stripping, sump pumps, roof patches and wet-dry vacuums, said sales associate Renee Hannum.

“Sandbags? We are out of sandbags. Our warehouse is out of sandbags. We cannot get any sandbags. I don’t know where they’re going to find them.”

She added that the company has plastic tubing people fill with water, but she wasn’t sure how many were in stock – and didn’t think they’d last the day.

“It’s going to be ugly,” she added. “It’s not looking good. There’ll be a lot of wet people. Good luck to our community.”

Del-Cur Supply Co-Op is also out of sandbags; Gold Beach Lumber in Harbor has been selling straw and tarps.

“Sandbags after sandbags,” said retail clerk Becky Murphy of Del-Cur Supply. “I sold almost as many yesterday by myself as we did last week in the store.”

They won’t go unused.

Mitchell awoke early one day last week to the sound of water downstairs and found 2 to 3 inches in his garden basement. Water was pushing its way up through the tile in his downstairs bathroom.

“It took us awhile, but then we noticed the trees were gone,” he said. “We have a beautiful view of the ocean now. Unobstructed. The house is fine, but we have a lot of damage.”

City public works director Loree Pryce and a geologist visited his house and those of neighbors Paul Carlin and David Smith several times over the week to assess damage.

Carlin hired McLennan Excavating to transfer dirt from his front yard to the backyard. The city was installing visqueen tarps on exposed hillsides to deflect the upcoming rain.

Carlin’s longer-term plans are to haul in rock and plant rye grass, reinstall pipes that lead from the front of the house to the cliff and build a French drain.

“It’s OK,” he said of the interim. “I think it’ll be OK. It’s built on rock. But over there?” he said, pointing to the Mitchell’s house. “Water was coming down those steps like a fish ladder.”

“Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall,” Mitchell said. “They’re (insurance) going to say it’s an act of God. I don’t know why God’s mad at me. It’s a mess.”

Oceanside homes weren’t the only ones affected.

Members of the Mountain Drive Road Association above North Bank Chetco River Road spent Tuesday morning inspecting culverts.

“We’ll be prepared this time, said Darrell Whirry. “All the culverts are open. and we’ll be up early. We’re in pretty good shape right now, but a lot of work was needed. This was an emergency. We’ve never had anything like this happen before.”

The association is a special district that collects taxes for road maintenance.

“These (damage) things are huge,” Whirry said. “You’re looking at $60,000, $70,000 and up. You get several, and it eats up your tax dollars real quick.”

Kachina Starr, an owner of Turtle Rock RV Resort south of Gold Beach, got water back up within three hours of losing it, built a bridge across the culvert that had blown out and ran a shuttle service to town three times a day for its residents and visitors.

Within 33 hours, a road had been reconstructed that could handle large RVs.

“We’re always ready for whatever happens,” Starr said. “I hope we’ve seen the worst of it.”

Larry Bell, who lives at AtRiver’s Edge and had his home and car flooded, couldn’t find sand bags in town and instead purchased bags filled with pea gravel to protect his home.

Two miles up Cape Ferrelo Road is the turnoff to Gordon Clay’s house. It used to be that one would follow the narrow, gravel road and over a creek almost a mile to his house.

Now the road over the creek is gone. Some 30 feet down, the creek rages around the crumbled asphalt that was his driveway.

Clay picked his way along a trail Monday with four gallons of store-bought water – his water system was wiped out in a landslide that missed his house by about 15 feet – down six steps he dug out of the mud embankment, crossed three planks set across the water and then along the edges of the trees that had fallen, to his house.

Above the landslide, two 500-gallon water tanks sit on the lip of the hill.

“Nature is amazing, how she works,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s a little worrisome.”

Jayme Beebe has no idea what she will do in the upcoming days. A landslide dropped rock and mud to a depth of 8 feet in her Harbor backyard in the last deluge and water flowed on top of that.

“It looked like a war zone,” she said, adding that she had the larger rocks removed. “We’re probably going to have another landslide. And it’ll be pure mud because there’s no rocks to hold it.

“I have no idea; I have nowhere to go,” she said when asked what she planned to do if it rains as predicted. “I have to protect my house. I don’t know. It’s been disastrous.”

“We’ve lived here 22 years and this has never happened before,” Mitchell said. “That’s probably what a lot of other people say. We’ll work through it one day at a time.”

Clay plans to stay at home and wait out the next storm.

“And hope,” he said. “I’m hoping nothing slides anymore. I’m hoping this is it.”