Highway crews keep wary eye on floodplain

The fall rains have started and officials from two government agencies are keeping a vigilant eye on the flood plain around Highway 35.

The Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service are watching for excessively muddy waters in Newton Creek and the White River that will signal the movement of glacial sediment on the upper slopes of Mt. Hood.

In the fall of 2000, heavy rains sent more than 600,000 cubic yards of material coursing down Newton Creek and the White River. That debris flow washed out a 20-foot span of roadway at the northern end of the White River Bridge and structurally undermined the Newton Creek Bridge and another 20-foot section of pavement in that vicinity.

ODOT used $1 million in federal emergency funds to reopen the passage to Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort just prior to its winter opening. However, Forest Service officials were unsettled about the use of heavy equipment in the bed of the White River, which has been designated as Wild and Scenic and placed under special environmental safeguards. It was the second time in three years that ODOT had to disturb the channel to save the highway and advert danger to travelers. Last year, Kim Titus, head of the Mt. Hood Ranger District, said a more permanent fix was needed because these dredging operations on a regular basis violated the intent of the federal protection.

However, Charlie Sciscione, ODOT district manager, said it will be both difficult and costly to find that fix since Highway 35 is stationary, but waterways in the area roam unpredictably from channel to channel. In fact, ODOT has raised the White River Bridge about 20 feet since the 1970s to accommodate the layers of sediment left across the river's plan during its meandering.

But the federal government has dedicated $200,000 toward a study of possible solutions that could prevent repeated repair costs. Sciscione said that research will try to investigate options such as relocating the highway to nearby forest roads or raising the level of the pavement.

"We are going to try and take a look at all of it and how we can improve the situation," said Sciscione.

Meanwhile, the involved agencies anticipate ongoing problems since warm and dry weather during the past 20 years has caused the glaciers on Mt. Hood to recede, leaving large quantities of loose sediment and rock at their base.

To avert potential flooding if possible, Sciscione has road crews regularly patrolling the area for a quick reaction to possible problems until winter freezes stabilize the ground.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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