Curry County commissioners approved an emergency declaration Wednesday evening concerning the extensive damage done to U.S. 101 at Hoosekanaden Slide and the economic repercussions that have ensued in the community.
Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign it at 11 a.m. Thursday.
“That’s good, but that’s not enough,” said Commissioner Court Boice. “We’re going to plead for the absolute maximum attention. We want the Oregon Coast to be the absolute top priority in terms of fixing it long-term. It doesn’t assume I know the engineering to get that done, but … And it’s got to dovetail into work on Carpenterville to get traffic through. Brookings is at risk.”
County and Oregon Department of Transportation officials were meeting Thursday morning to discuss the incident 12 miles north of Brookings and determine the best plan of action, said County Emergency Services Coordinator Jeremy Dumire. He hadn’t yet had time to visit the site to see if the giant landslide had stopped moving yet.
That section of coastal highway has always had stability problems as it lies on what geologists call an “iceberg slide” and is prone to slip toward the ocean. After torrential rain struck the region over the weekend, the road dropped 4 inches on Monday, another 2.5 feet by the end of that day and an additional 10 feet Tuesday. By Wednesday, it had started sliding, at a rate of 2 feet an hour, toward the ocean.
Boice and Dumire confirmed that Tidewater Contractors and ODOT were working to make a path and pour gravel; there is still no estimated time when the area will open up to even one lane of traffic.
“Excavators are working on the slide,” Dumire said. “They’re pretty brave for it, but it’s getting worked on.”
Drivers have been diverted to Carpenterville Road, adding at least 20 minutes to a normal trip between Brookings and Gold Beach. The road is steep, narrow and winding with sharp drop-offs and patches where it has been reinforced to accommodate heavier vehicular traffic.
Trucking industry officials are based at either end of the road — at South Coast Lumber mill in Brookings and Pistol River to the north — to monitor the kinds of trucks permitted on the road. Only those with a trailer length of 40 feet — and 60 feet overall — are permitted at this point.
“(State Rep. David Brock Smith) and I tried to get the trucks off that road, but we failed,” Boice said, acknowledging there are dangerous turns in the road that are difficult to see, particularly at night.
“If something like that happens, or if we do have a washout, what’s the consequences?” he said. “They’re going to keep the trucks on a little bit longer. And it’s raining again; that’s certainly not going to help.”
Life seemed to return to normal in Brookings Wednesday after a day of frenetic activity when drivers waited in long lines to get gas — Fred Meyer and Conoco both rain out mid-afternoon on Monday — and depleted the shelves of water and milk at the store.
“Fred Meyer is back in stock on gas, milk and other grocery items you might need to take care of your families,” Fred Meyer Store Manager Henry Johnson said. “I would like thank you all for your patience during this time as we have adjusted our delivery routes. I don't anticipate any more issues going forward as our supply lines settle down.”
Johnson also commended his employees for coming in early, staying late and otherwise having their lives disrupted to help customers.
Fred Meyer received an initial delivery of some 6,000 gallons of gasoline Wednesday afternoon and was expected to get a more regular delivery through the end of the week. Many delivery trucks originate in the Willamette and Rogue River valleys and have had to divert shipments of food and other supplies over California199 to the south. The valleys themselves received copious amounts of snow earlier this week, further compounding the problem.
The Community Helpers Food Bank in Brookings, too, didn’t receive supplies earlier this week, but are sent two trucks over Carpenterville Road to Gold Beach to receive food from South Coast Food Share and Oregon Food Bank based in Coos Bay, said Executive Director Pamela Winebarger.
“Our shelves are a little bare,” she said. “There’s nothing but eggs in the refrigerator and there’s seven containers of fruits and vegetables when we normally have about 18. That’s just kind of where it’s at.”
The slide has forced food bank officials to change their schedule until it is fixed.
“Now, because of Hooskenaden, we’re only going to get a load every other week,” Winebarger said. “It’ll be brought special for us from Coos Bay. It’s going to be kind of precarious; I don’t know how it’s going to work. We may have to go to Gold Beach every week to pick up produce, but that’s where it is right now.”
Usually, a large semi brings food from Coos Bay to all the food banks to the south.
“ODOT has said, if you don’t have to travel don’t,” Winebarger said. “We’re trying to respect that, but still help and be productive for our clients.”