Center for Living hit with flood

Pipe break nearly destroys new social service building

Staff members at the Mid-Columbia Center for Living experienced deja-vu as they set up shop this week in their old headquarters at 13th and State streets in Hood River.

The center’s new facility on Woods Court in the Heights, which is little more than a year old, sits empty after a water main broke inside the building last week and caused extensive damage.

“There was water coming out of every door,” said Todd Jacobson, program manager with the Center for Living and one of the first to arrive for work on the morning of June 3. It took him a few moments to comprehend what was going on as he stood in the flooded parking lot, then it was “sheer panic,” he said. The city public works department arrived and shut off the water main, but the water pouring from the building didn’t subside.

“Finally we figured out there were two mains,” Jacobson said. The pipe that had burst fed the building’s fire protection and sprinkler system. The water main for that system was finally shut off by the fire department.

Jacobson opened the building’s doors, which brought more water flooding out. He and other employees arriving for work walked into what Jacobson called “total devastation” inside the 11,000-square-foot facility. Several inches of water filled hallways and offices throughout most of the building. Walls were cracked and ceiling tiles dislodged.

“We told everybody to get out,” Jacobson said. “We didn’t know what the structural integrity of the building was at that point.” Staff members ran back in to get medications that are vital to many of the agency’s clients, then proceeded to carry on work from their cell phones in the parking lot. The Center for Living provides services to people with mental illness and addiction problems and those with developmental disabilities in Hood River and Wasco counties.

A restoration company was contacted immediately and worked 24 hours a day for seven days after the incident, removing all furniture and equipment from the building as well as the carpet. A 12-inch section of sheetrock that was water damaged was cut out from the bottom of walls throughout the building. The company installed huge fans and an intricate drying system to extract excess moisture from the air.

“A major long-term problem we’re facing is mold,” said Sharon Guidera, executive director of the Center for Living. According to Guidera, 15 out of 25 computers in the building were ruined. Fortunately, the agency’s Hood River offices were networked via computer with its offices in The Dalles, so client appointments and most records were unaffected. Some files in filing cabinets on the floor sustained damage, but Guidera expects most of them to be salvageable.

Guidera, who was out of town until a couple of days after the catastrophe, credits her staff with fast thinking immediately after the incident as well as quick work in getting the agency back on its feet with little disruption to clients.

“An executive director could not have asked for a more competent response,” Guidera said. She cited Jacobson as well as Lynn Garcia, business manager, and Valerie Bellus, business services, for “organizing the response” after the incident. The agency moved back into its old quarters at 13th and State, which was still vacant.

“We’re stuffed in there,” said Guidera, who’s been told it will be three to four months before she and her staff of 26 can return to the Woods Court facility — a timeline she calls “optimistic.”

Contractors are working at the site to determine the nature of the structural damage caused by the pipe break, whose force shoved the concrete foundation immediately above it up several inches. Large cracks also appeared elsewhere in the foundation. In addition, several walls are off kilter and the roof is bowed, indicating extensive structural damage.

Guidera said “all the insurance companies are working real hard” to determine what caused the rupture — and who’s liable. So far, nothing specific has been determined, although officials are looking at a variety of potential causes ranging from defective pipe equipment to faulty installation.

“You just don’t expect a new building to have problems like this,” Guidera said. “It was a four year project and you think you’re done.”

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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