Disaster relief program forming in Curry
Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer   
December 29, 2012 07:46 am

FEMA couldn’t help Curry County after the Nov. 20 storm wreaked havoc on everything from roads to decks – and the county didn’t have the funds.

Curry County Emergency Services Coordinator Don Kendall was running out of ideas until he heard of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC).

“Someone in the state of Oregon has had to have set up one of these long-term recovery groups,” Kendall said of his search. “They (CRWRC) work really good with the state of Oregon, Washington, with Portland, Eugene, Salem. (They’ll help us with) what we can do, who we can help, a mechanism where we can receive donations.

“They’re coming in soon to do an audit of as many properties and people as we can,” he added. “There ain’t no guarantee on nothing, but it was about my last gasp to get some help for anybody.”

The CRWRC works with scores of agencies throughout the world to provide long-term disaster relief and humanitarian assistance by supporting relief centers, bringing extra food resources, repairing roofs, seeking building supplies, providing case management training and systems and training volunteer teams within the community.

Currently, members are working in the Northeast, helping citizens who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The local group includes Kendall, Pastor Bernie Lindley of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Brookings, the American Red Cross and a couple of civilians. More will be added to represent the north end of the county as the group gets established.

Damage summary

Curry County suffered an estimated $5 million in damage when the storm raged through the area. Three sinkholes took out roads, numerous culverts collapsed, and water and sewer lines were threatened. On the civilian front, floods swept through homes – knocking at least two off their foundations.

At least three homes overlooking Chetco Cove remain in precarious conditions, with tarps set to deflect rain water flowing to the beach.

 Kendall said the county didn’t suffer enough damage in the storm to meet FEMA funding criteria. The county far surpassed the $72,000 requirement it needed as a county to get money. But it didn’t meet the state requirement of between $8 million and $9 million.

The money would only have gone to help the cities and county with repairs to roads, culverts and other infrastructure.

So it’s the CRWRC to the rescue.

Kendall has been talking with the agency for a few weeks, discussing how it might help Curry County get back on its feet, from replacing a garden wall to determining what can be done for homeowners along Buena Vista Loop.

“There’s not much they’re going to be able to do there,” he said of the homes, one of which has lost half its concrete deck over the cliff. “You can put a million tons of rock and gravel in there, and who’s to say it won’t wash away in 10 years?”

The city even helped, by placing tarps held down with sandbags over the edge to prevent erosion to what’s left of the cliffs.

“It’s very, very difficult to stabilize any kind of a hillside that has weather frontage and gets direct sea pounding,” Kendall said. “It’s so hard to keep that stuff up; it just does not want to stay.”

He knows it firsthand.

“Every year, my house gets about 3 to 5 feet closer to the ocean,” he said, adding that a house he and his wife were looking at before they bought their Gold Beach home lost half its yard in one winter.

“The first year, at the end of my block, a house was hanging off, ready to fall onto the beach,” he said. “The next year … the hillside was falling away and their septic tank was laying on the beach. There are four homes constantly losing the land behind them. All you can do is stand there.”

Long-term recovery

The local group – right now calling itself the Curry Citizens Long-Term Recovery Group – will work with CRWRC to compile demographic data, information regarding damage caused by the storm, lists of people who need help most and compilations of donated material.

If the group were to get, for example, 100 sheets of drywall donated, demographics they’ve collected and put in a computer program would determine who needed it most.

“This will be a standing long-term group,” Kendall said. “Any time someone wants to make a donation or something happens to someone, they can come talk to us.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile. I was pushing for it this past winter after the rains, talking with people all up and down the state.”

He met a CRWRC representative at a conference and serious talks got underway.

Currently, however, it is just in the organizational stage, and others from Gold Beach and Port Orford will be included as the group gets under way.

“My goal, what I’d truthfully like to see, is a regional group rather than a county group,” Kendall said. “Curry County is not always going to be the one to get beat up.”