Round Table: Getting some traction when rocks come falling down

Monday, as the snow melt began, a caller phoned the Hood River News with a timely suggestion: “Please slow down so you don’t splash icy dirty water on those on sidewalks.”

Duly noted; it’s still a helpful tip.

Rarely has there been a greater need to be cognizant of the welfare of walkers than in these days as the everywhere ice slumps into a gritty, slushy (grushy?) slurry to step over or get splashed on you.

More on that in a moment.

I had written the above for Wednesday’s paper but for space and time reasons got no farther with my attempt at a fresh take on the aftermath of the five-day snowstorm.

Then comes Wednesday’s Interstate 84 landslide — little explanation needed but see page A1 for details.

Talk about aftermaths.

As far as mud and rock slides, in the past 10 years this is the third go-round (or fall-down) at milepost 61. A landslide is a sobering reality (ask Dan Koopman, as quoted in the story) because it is so drastic, so deadly, and so sudden.

We’ll be talking about this geological event for some time, especially given the two smaller ones that happened in the Gorge on Thursday (and let’s not ignore the one that closed Cornell Road west of Portland Friday morning.) The dynamic of earth, rock, water, temperature, weight and time, is an amazing combination of gritty factors.

Ben Mitchell’s on-deadline description of what the situation looks like at milepost 61 is, at risk of sounding like we’re bragging, a premium chunk of information that you won’t get anywhere else.

An online reader goaded us on Facebook Wednesday for being an hour later than the Portland TV stations with getting something on social media about that evening’s slide. Unlike the metro TV stations, we don’t have someone in the newsroom all the time, though we do have 24/7 access to emergency alerts, and we do our level best to update the website and Facebook and Twitter as close to immediately as we can. Our web guy, Ben McCarty, was right on it Wednesday before 9 p.m. with two updates of the latest information and available photos.

One of those vaunted Portland TV stations on Thursday night did a 90-second piece on the slide that showed the debris from the air and up close, the reporter standing next to boulders “as big as a small car” and then the producers cut to the reporter putting the microphone up to ODOT’s Kimberly Dinwiddie and asking, “What will it take to get this freeway open?”

Her (aired) reply: “Well, first we have to move this big pile of rocks.”

Oh.

End of story, cut to commercial.

Not to come down too hard on our broadcast brethren, but the TV report was, shall we way, not a landslide of insight. In defense of the reporter, and moreover of Dinwiddie, there was probably plenty more she said about the vehicles and person power needed to move that big pile of rocks, and what the factors would be in terms of time, equipment, logistics, and geology — all of which Mitchell brings out in his report in this issue. My guess is somebody in the booth back in Portland had to slice 15-20 seconds somewhere, so he left his viewers with the wisdom of the pile of rocks.

We all know that big pile of rocks needs to move. Dislodging facts takes a bit of work but it’s on display within these pages.

Thanks for reading, and please go slow in this and any “construction zone.”

n

As to that aftermath involving white and cold rather than solid and dirty — a few notes we held from earlier this week:

“Front wheel paw” power drew Jennifer Kaden and her daughter, Sophie, up Ninth Street as Sophie headed to May Street School where she is a fourth-grader.

Roscoe the golden retriever pulled at his leash as Jennifer and Sophie made their way up and over a sharp berm and onto the crosswalk at Hazel Street.

It was one example of people making their way through the increasingly slushy landscape as temperatures warmed and rain fell intermittently.

I walk to work myself most days, and at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday considered the day a success — having made it down from the Heights to the office without once falling on my keister.

A few close ones, but I stayed upright. (Insert wisecrack here.)

n

Regrouping in the warm of the office, I knew I had to venture out again at about 8 a.m. to talk to people at the post office.

I pulled from the desk drawer an artifact I had discovered last fall when we packed up and moved internally to do the remodeling and reflooring project here.

The artifact: “No Slip Ice Treads,” made of rubber with golf-shoe style pegs on the toe end, “for sure winter footing on ice and snow,” and stretchable, or so I thought.

Needing to walk downtown, I pulled out the treads and stretched them over my shoes. I got the left foot on fine, but “SNAP” went the rubber on the right one.

I had to get going so I briefly debated wearing just one, deciding that it would be better to go slow and easy rather than some kind of lopsided step.

Lesson learned: Try out your gear when the weather is nice.

That’s what the local public works people did, and the efficiency of keeping the streets safe was clear evidence of that. Kudos to the guys with the plows and sanders.

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