New bridge holds, old one still missing

Feb. 2, 2011


Red hill bridge, expected to be completed in a few months, has been washed out since 2006.

Call it the mystery of the missing bridge; or just an impressive showing of the forces of nature. Either way, the 60-foot steel-girdered crossing that once connected Red Hill with Parkdale is nowhere to be found.

"We don't know where it is," said Stuart Fletcher, U.S. Forest Service civil engineer. "It's likely within a quarter-mile or so, but we don't really know how far downstream it ended up. It's probably in several large pieces, bent up and buried under boulders and sand."

The bridge was swept away quickly - probably in a matter of minutes - during flooding and a debris flow in November, 2006 triggered by several days of heavy rain. Its replacement -- a three-span, 315-foot bridge - is nearly complete, and flooding last month has already put it to the test.

"It survived the recent event just fine," Fletcher said after surveying the area this week. Heavy rain and warm temperatures earlier this month put rivers in the Hood basin at flood stage by Jan. 16. At the Red Hill crossing, the river changed course and took on a new side channel directly under the new bridge. But with a higher, longer, beefier design, the new bridge had no issues with the high water or the material it carried.

"In this drainage you don't have high water without a lot of debris," Fletcher said. "The new bridge is designed to handle quite a bit larger event than what we had this month."

The $1,351,408 USFS project is expected to be completed late this spring. The four-plus year time frame for replacing the bridge was due to several factors. It was originally unclear who would be responsible for the project. The road is owned by Hood River County, but the USFS ended up taking on the project. Finding funding also took time; patience paid off, however, as the project was paid for with Federal Highway Administration funds. Designing the structure, finding a contractor and getting permits for the work took quite a bit of time as well.

"It was a fairly difficult site to figure out," said Fletcher. "We've been working on the project for a while, but it takes a lot of time."

Construction, contracted to Anderson Environmental from Kelso, Wash., started last summer and is on hold until late winter or early spring.

Although he's curious where it ended up, Fletcher said the USFS hasn't actively pursued locating the old bridge. "It's buried downstream somewhere, we know that," he said.

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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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