Gov. Kate Brown Friday morning declared a state of emergency in 10 Oregon counties, including Curry County due to severe winter storm conditions and the damage that has ensued.
The other counties include Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn and Marion.
The declaration, which expires in 30 days unless terminated sooner, directs the state Office of Emergency Management to coordinate deployment of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Oregon State Police and the Oregon National Guard to support local communities as needed.
OEM will facilitate the use of state resources, personnel and equipment to protect communities, property and the environment, and aid in the recovery from heavy snow and ice accumulation, high winds, flooding and landslides. The declaration will also enable ODOT to activate the Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief Program to help repair transportation systems, the declaration reads.
“We have also been in contact with U.S. Rep Peter DeFazio’s office asking for his assistance, as he is well positioned as the Chairman of Transportation,” said State Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford.
The rain ….
The weather system that pounded Southern Oregon wiped out the Hooskanaden Slide area on U.S. 101 12 miles north of Brookings. The area is historically under constant repair, as it lies on unstable serpentine soils and is in an active slide zone.
Last weekend’s winter storm brought more than a foot of rain to the area, causing the roadway there to first slip 4 inches on Monday, another 2.5 feet on Tuesday — at which point ODOT closed the highway — and to 12 feet below grade by Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the road was sliding westward toward the ocean at a rate of 2 feet an hour, then slowed to about 11 inches an hour Thursday — until Friday morning when it moved another five feet in four hours, said Curry County Emergency Services Coordinator Jeremy Dumire.
Traffic is being diverted over the old Highway 101 — Carpenterville Road — which itself is subject to slides as the summit is where the uppermost portion of the Hoosekanaden slide begins. ODOT has laid heavy gravel there to reinforce the roadway and accommodate the heavier traffic.
Trucking industry crews are staged at either end of the road to ensure only those vehicles with trailers of 40 feet or less and 60-foot overall length use Carpenterville Road to bypass the slide.
Most vehicles are able to get through, Dumire said, although some have been turned around. Chip haulers in particular, which are often longer than 50 feet, haven’t been seen recently, so he suspects the word has gotten out that those vehicles need to find alternate routes.
ODOT and Tidewater Contractors crews had hoped Thursday to start laying gravel to make one lane of traffic available for the public and delivery trucks, but the constant ground movement prevented that.
Instead, crews diverted their attention to a problem uphill where the initial slide blocked the natural path of a creek, shifting the runoff into the middle of the slide, further saturating the ground and making it less stable.
They then worked to reestablish the original channel and direct water away from the slide.
Video footage also shows large rocks on the beach below that have fallen from the slide area, as well.
All the while, Dumire said, rock and gravel deliveries are ongoing so crews can start building a one-lane road when the land stops moving.
“They’re not wasting time; they’re being as proactive as possible,” he said. “And Carpenterville Road is holding up rather well. It’s looking fairly well for what it is. It’s going to be a long process; we know that.”
A semblance of normalcy had returned to Brookings by mid-week, with drivers getting accustomed to giving themselves extra time to get over the detour on Carpenterville Road and deliveries arriving at local grocery stores and gas stations.
Fred Meyer, which received 16,000 gallons of fuel Wednesday was out again Friday at noon after pumping problems at the wholesale facility delayed a delivery for seven hours, an employee said. Gas was expected to be delivered mid-afternoon.
“We are doing all we can; considering the slide area is still moving,” said Curry County Commissioner Court Boice. “I appreciate the sheriff’s, ODOT’s and our partner’s quick response and coordination. Tidewater has been on site and doing what they can under the dangerous conditions, as the entire area is still extremely unstable.”
“As our state and local authorities continue to work hard to clear roads, reconnect power and ensure the safety of the community, this declaration will provide additional resources and the potential for federal highway system funds in the future,” Brown said in her emergency declaration. “I urge all Oregonians to follow the recommendations of local authorities and avoid travel while ODOT crews work on the roads and restore core services.”