‘Worst damage they have seen in years’


News staff writer

November 11, 2006

Damage from heavy rainfall this past week has left its mark on Hood River County.

Logs jam the waters at the Port of Hood River and boulders lay spread like a giant’s toys across Highway 35.

U.S. Forest Service Forester Doug Jones lives near Wapinitia and commutes to Mount Hood for his job. But not now.

“I can’t get through so I’m at the White River station,” he said.

Jones is also an avid photographer and sent in several photos to the Hood River News showing parts of Highway 35 undercut, gone, or covered with rock.

As of Thursday morning, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kim Smolt said travel on Highway 35 one-quarter mile south of Baseline Road is limited to one lane traffic as the Hood River has undercut part of that stretch.

Several creeks have shifted course, among them, Clark Creek and Newton Creek. Several of the area Sno-parks, including White River West and Boy Scout, are completely covered in rock.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has closed the stretch of highway from milepost 61.71 at Baseline Drive to 80.08, at U.S. Highway 26, indefinitely. Crews have not been able to complete an assessment of how bad the situation is due to safety concerns.

“The guys up there can still hear boulders rumbling down … it’s still a very active situation,” said Shawn Uhlman, ODOT public information officer.

He toured the site Wednesday — or what he could get to from the north side of Mount Hood. While maintenance crews have been clearing boulders, Uhlman said it’s far from knowing how much it will cost to repair the road or when it will re-open.

“In talking with many of the veteran maintenance group, they say it’s the worst damage they have seen in many years,” he said.

Uhlman wouldn’t even estimate how many miles of roadway have been wiped out, only saying that huge rocks, sand, and debris have impacted several miles of Highway 35.

“It’s not just one or two places,” he said.

The closure also impacts Mt. Hood Meadows, which was due to open for its ski season once the snow flies. (See related story.) Smolt emphasized that incorrect information was given out on a TV news broadcast Wednesday night that employees could use Forest Service Road 48 to access a planned orientation; but the road is closed.

“If people think they can take their personal rigs up there to get through, that is not going to happen,” she said.

She said the Forest Service and ODOT plan to fly over the mountain on Thursday to assess the changes.

“It’s (stream changes) still a very dynamic situation,” she said. “With the White River and Clark, well the mountain does what it wants to do.”

Rep. Greg Walden plans to tour the area Thursday morning with state officials to assess the damage. Closures by the Hood River Ranger District of several Forest Service roads remain in effect although the closure of Road 18 from Zigzag to Dee has been lifted.

At the other end of the county, port officials have contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about what can be done with logs and debris left by the storm’s wake.

“I would say it’s a record amount of logs this early in the season,” said Mike Doke, the port’s marketing director.

He said it’s still early in the winter season and wood and debris generally collect along the shore each winter.

“We can’t get the cruise ship in here but we have a backup cruise dock in the marina,” he said.

The cruise ship dock is blocked by debris in the river. Linda Hull, the port’s administrative assistant, also handles coordinating arrangements with cruise ships that traverse the Columbia River. She said “Seabird”, a small vessel owned by Lindblad Expeditions, had to go to Cascade Locks on Tuesday to load its passengers.

“That was its last scheduled trip until the spring,” Hull said.

However, the “Queen of the West” sternwheeler has two more Sunday visits scheduled to Hood River for the season. Hull said while she has not received confirmation yet from the company, she believes they will not be coming to Hood River.

“They are too large to fit in the marina but may go to Stevenson or The Dalles instead,” she said.

The Corps confirmed that it was assessing the situation at the request of the port but in general, debris is the responsibility of the state or local authorities. Public Affairs officer Matt Rabe said the agency’s concern is with the navigability of the commercial channel in the Columbia River.

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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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