Floodwater express hits MHRR hard


News staff writer

November 15, 2006

Floodwaters the past week swamped the Mt. Hood Railroad and left the operation scrambling for a fix just before their holiday season.

The majority of damage is on the railroad’s backcountry tracks high up in the county’s hill regions.

“The big damage is the landslide just south of Dee,” said rail manager Michelle Marquart.

The damage forced the closure of all the railroad operations until Nov. 25. That includes excursion trains, freight hauling, and seasonal events. The Polar Express train was scheduled to begin Tuesday. Instead of taking reservations, Marquart is busy filling out forms.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize the economic impact the railroad has on the county,” she said.

She was working on damage estimates Monday afternoon to submit to county administrator Dave Meriwether. Those estimates will work up the line to the governor. If the totals for the state come to enough damage, then Oregon and subsequently Hood River County would be eligible for federal disaster relief.

Damage to the operation includes approximately 10 feet of sediment deposited by floodwaters beneath the trestle. Marquart said it appears there was minor damage to the structure itself but the company is bringing in an engineering firm next week to verify it. The estimate for dredging out the Hood River is $300,000.

Approximately 150 feet of track at milepost .5, including ballast and foundation, has been washed out. Repairs include lifting track and filling in with new material. Cost estimates to repair the track are in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.

The waters tore away embankment from approximately 300 feet of track at milepost .7. Repairs would involve bringing in riprap to support both sides at a cost of $25,000 to $35,000.

Land slid under track at milepost 15, which left track suspended in the air over approximately 150 feet. Repairs would include moving the Hood River back to its former east side and rebuilding the approximate 65-foot embankment and relay track.

Marquart said due to existing financial commitments to a federal railroad loan and operations loan, the company is unable to make the repairs. She said without grant funding, the Mt. Hood Railroad would be forced into bankruptcy.

The company employs 60 to 70 workers and provides freight service for lumber, fruit, and propane from the mid-valley region. She estimated they contribute $6 to 7 million annually to Hood River County’s economy. She said they hope to be able to still do some Polar Express runs this season as they will focus first on repairs between Hood River and Odell.

“We haven’t cancelled (the Polar Express run) for the evening of Nov. 24,” she said. “We remain hopeful we can complete some repairs by then.”

So far the railroad has had to cancel 12 Polar Express runs, two brunch, two dinner, and four excursion trains in addition to its freight hauling.

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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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