The sun broke through the clouds Tuesday morning, four days after an “atmospheric river” dropped more than 13 inches of rain in Brookings and 9 inches in Gold Beach, flooding homes and low-lying areas, taking out trees and roads and causing landslides throughout Curry County.
The storm created the worst flooding since November 2012 during which Chetco Avenue near Napa Auto Parts and a stretch from McDonalds to Railroad Street were flooded due to clogged culverts and other problems. The biggest impact that year was to residents on Buena Vista Loop, who stood by as water flowed in to their homes from the road and out back doors, flushing decks and backyards over the cliffs.
This storm didn’t affect Brookings, Mayor Jake Pieper noted in a city council meeting Monday night. He credited the lessons learned from the 2012 flood and the improvements the city has made to stormwater infrastructure and proactive work on culverts before storms.
But county crews were spread thin.
“We lost three-quarters of the road on Gardner Ridge,” said County Roadmaster Richard Christensen. “We started working Sunday night and worked 20 hours through the evening of Monday. We were out in force. We were able to save a lot of roads with our efforts, but we’ll be in major cleanup mode now and will be for the next few weeks.”
The Chetco River crested its banks in conjunction with an early morning high tide of 6.8 feet at 1:50 a.m. Monday. It hit a high flow of about 53,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) that ebbed by Tuesday morning to 21,100 cfs. The gauge at Second Bridge hit the forecast 22 feet — four feet above the action stage for flooding.
The river crested its banks, flooding numerous homes along North Bank Chetco River Road and the RV park at At River’s Edge on South Bank Chetco River Road. Residents there were not forced to relocate their vehicles, but large pools of standing water were present Monday.
Water lapped at the bottom of the sign in the parking area of Social Security Bar.
The temporary gravel road at Hooskanaden Slide, 12 miles north of Brookings, was unaffected. There, a quarter-mile of U.S. 101 washed away in a torrential rainstorm Feb. 25 and work has been underway since to rebuild a new road to ensure safe travel between Gold Beach and Brookings. Paving will get started when the area dries out and crews ensure the new road base hasn’t slipped any more.
Numerous roads were closed throughout the day, as well.
Gardner Ridge at Hazel Camp was closed at 1:30 p.m. Monday after the road started crumbling down the hill near Cate Road, and Winchuck River Road was closed about 4.5 miles down the road due to landslides and debris flows, said Curry County Emergency Coordinator Jeremy Dumire.
Christensen said he expects work along both banks of the Chetco and Winchuck rivers to be completed Tuesday afternoon.
Hunter Creek Road south of Gold Beach was flooded Sunday night, then again Monday afternoon with a second high tide.
“North County had several issues,” Christensen said. “Road slips, slides, drainage issues; we’re doing repairs there next.”
He said Agness and the Gold Beach area managed to avoid the brunt of damage.
Trees and logs bobbed on whitecapped waves in the Chetco River Monday morning after falling one after another like dominos upstream, residents reported. Debris was littered all over the beaches and scores of gawkers drove to the RV park at Sporthaven Beach to watch the churning muddy water rush down the river channel and crash into ocean waves that exploded over the jetties.
And Salmon Run golf course was partially under water early Monday morning, forcing the closure of the facility until it can be cleaned up.
Farther down South Bank Chetco River Road Monday, a slide at Bravo Lane near the Piling Hole prevented a school bus from returning to town, but county road crews cleared it quickly even as water poured off the hillside above.
The Winchuck River wasn’t far behind the Chetco, having crested its banks by mid-day Monday and flooding low-lying areas, Dumire said. The road was closed until about 10:30 a.m. Monday about 4 miles upriver as crews tackled two landslides.
Significant sliding was reported along Langlois Mountain Road at 10:30 a.m., and crews indicated they were worried that if a pipe wasn’t unplugged, they might lose the road. A slide also closed Jerry’s Flat Road near Eagle View Road, a mile from U.S. 101 for a period of time Monday.