Dramatic Flooding in the
Chehalis Valley  12-04-07

History :  The upper and eastern half of the Chehalis River drains approximately 1,300 square miles of area.  The mid winter of 2007 there was unprecedented rainfall, with over 15" recorded at a upper Pe Ell volunteer weather station in 2 days.  I personally recorded  less, over 9" farther downstream at Adna in the same 3 days during the same period plus 1 day later.   There was also about 4' of snow on Baw Faw peak.  One logger who was operating in the area at 2500' said he recorded 14" of rain in one day there, so there was intensive rain in the higher elevation of the peaks.  Weyerhaeuser operates it's own rain gauges in 3 of the upper ridges but not shared with anyone else.  It has come out that they received between 15'  and 20'  there.   The reason the differences is depending on the location of these gauges, the rainfall was different.   Extensive rain came down in the upper watersheds that that did not occur even 4 or 5 miles away in the lower areas.

This house got washed away, that's all that is left in the Back Memorial Park in Adna What is left of the Chandler Rd. bridge at Dryad

 

New bridge being constructed during the summer/fall of 2010 to replace the Chandler Rd bridge.  This is constructed just upstream from the original one & considerably higher.

Aftermath of a Hurricane in the South Pacific :  This was apparently the aftermath of a hurricane in the South Pacific Ocean as we got the rain in Lewis County and Pacific County (nearer the coast) with winds up to 150 MPH.  The temperature was 51 degrees during the day and snow melt on the high country added to the raising water.  Recently clear-cut logged off timber company land in the upper watersheds have been found to also contributed to this devastation.

Sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean have been in the “La Nina” condition (lower than average) for about the past year, and that La Nina conditions generally bring more atmospheric moisture to southeast Asia as well as to our pacific northwest.  The set of storms that hit us were remnants of two typhoons (another name for hurricanes) that tracked northeasterly across the Pacific, causing the national weather service to issue a first-ever hurricane warning for the Oregon coast.

These conditions set the stage for the windstorm and flooding we received here in Southwest Washington.   Mother nature has her own set of rules which sometimes are quite harsh.  Could it be Al Gore's fault in that he has identified a supposedly Global Warming? 

The Standard for Flooding at Chehalis/Centralia :  The standard used for most flooding in this whole area is taken from the river height gauge at the old Centralia water treatment plant off Mellon Street bridge.  Normal river height this time of the year is about 49'.  The flood stage height for flood level one is 65'.   Flood level four is 73'.   The 1996 flood peaked at 73.36'.  This rain in 2007 pushed the river up and over it's banks quite rapidly which finally crested at about 3AM of 12-04-07 at very close to 75'.  

Sequence of What Happened :
 
It all starts at the headwaters.  Still unanswered is many questions as to what happened in the watersheds of the upper Chehalis.  I am not sure , but I will bet that most of the timberland is behind locked gates.   This rather eliminates much public knowledge.

Areas of major damage were below Pe Ell in the Doty/Dryad, Boistfort/Curtis and Adna areas.  Over the ridge to the north in the Lincoln Creek and Independence Valley watersheds flooding was also going on, but not quite to the same degree.  As the water from the main Chehalis River moved downstream, the Chehalis, Centralia and the Rochester/Independence area also received major flooding as a accumulation of all the tributaries flows.

The First Indication of Major Flooding :  The first indication came from major flooding upstream in the Doty/Dryad areas and at the same time at the Boistfort/Curtis areas.  These are two different watersheds draining the east side of Baw Faw peak into the Boistfort area and the other area being on the west side of the peak into the Pe Ell area, which then merge below the Curtis area where the South Fork of the Chehalis enters the main Chehalis River.  

The initially reports came from the Doty/Dryad area.   The Boistfort area was hit equally hard, but they are a somewhat more isolated community so reports did not get out as fast.  The town of Pe Ell did not get much if any actual flood damage, however some of the homes nearer the river and downstream, or those near some tributary streams could well have had some flooding.   By just driving around, it was not evident as compared to those areas just downstream a few miles.

For some reason the Emergency Management people apparently did not understand what they saw on the USGS river height gages http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wa/nwis/current/?type=flow.  Or they were not set up to react fast enough.  The local fire departments were among the first to offer rescue assistance, and one would assume there was some communication between the agencies.

The Second Indication of Major Flooding :  The Chehalis River channel from just above Doty and downstream to Adna is narrow and somewhat deep, after that, the river bed shallows up forcing the water over the banks, into the farmland and residential areas.  The main Chehalis had enough water coming downstream and as it continued gaining water from the side tributary creeks increased the flow.  Water and debris continued downstream over the banks so fast then started stacking up against bridge piling, even flooding over, stacking up against the bridge decks, which could not stand up to this force.  When one bridge went, the debris then going faster stacked against the next bridge then like dominos, in a short time 3 vehicle bridges along with 1 railroad bridge, plus the newly constructed foot bridge at Rainbow Falls, (from Highway 6 to the park) in approximately 4 miles from Dryad to Meskill were wiped out or weakened enough that they before long disappeared also.

In the Doty /Dryad to Meskill area (about a 10 mile stretch) along the north bank of the Chehalis River, there were 75 flooded houses that had to be gutted and diesel-powered commercial dehumidifiers were running around the clock to dry them out before restoration could be started.  Reports are that one family in this area got a phone call then had only 10 minutes to evacuate.  All they saved was a few pictures as they ran out of the house but could get back in for another quick load.   Others say in 30 minutes, they lost everything they owned.  

A reporter for the Seattle Times while flying over the area on 12-09-07 took some photos of major mudslides on timber companies land.   I was sure this is what happened as indicated by the muddy water color and the amount of silt of the main rivers for at least 2 weeks later, as compared to the smaller side creeks that cleared up rather rapidly.  Now (12-17-07) these photos are being published and are apparently from the Stillman Creek area of the South Fork watershed.  Some of the hillsides were fresh bare logging, others reforested hillsides, then even a logging site in progress.  The photos do not identify all of the locations.   I am sure that they are but a few of the many slides out there, probably in both the main Chehalis and the upper South Fork areas.

When these mudslides come down, blocked the swollen tributary effectively making a mud dam then backing the water up the valley, then finally breaking loose, this one will then gather force and when it reaches the next one downstream will break that one out, you then have a wall of mud, water and debris going downstream FAST.  The same results were as if a man-made dam breaking.   This creates a no warning situation, water raising extremely fast, (which was experienced here) with very little any inhabitants living below can do.  The damage it can do is unimaginable. 

Now Weyerhaeuser says they will have to take a look at their logging practices, well I certainly hope so.   However Weyerhaeuser is not the only timber company who owns land in this area.  Hampton Timber Co. for one and even our own state Department of Natural Resources also who contract out timber cutting thru timber sales could have some slice of this pie.

Now All Hell Breaks Loose :  At the same time South Fork of the Chehalis River (a slightly smaller river) draining the Boistfort/Curtis valley was doing the same thing in it's own way.   Here, as on the main Chehalis River, the appearance of possible upstream damming on the South Fork is indicative by logging debris being swept downstream creating a valley wide log-jam at the Lost Valley Rd. just above the Boistfort School.  Look at the pictures below.  These logs sure look like debris from recent logging as not all the logs seen here appear to have been laying along the river bank and rotting for years.  This was not even an exceptional "normal" flood.  There were other contributing circumstances than just a lot of water. This was not even an exceptional "normal" flood.  There were other contributing circumstances than just a lot of water. 

A couple of miles below there, the community of Curtis was inundated, a few homes had water up to the eaves.  A organic greenhouse complex that raises produce for the markets had about everything washed away, including a refrigerated steel cargo container.  This container was found downstream near the Curtis store setting on top of a vehicle, as shown in one of the photos below.  One dairy farm lost all of it's cattle and another a majority of his.  This very high water there was possibly aggravated by the 2 rivers converging about another mile downstream, creating a wall of water there, not allowing the South Fork's water to go anywhere.  And all the South Fork's water basically stacked up in the flat farmland.

Then a couple more miles downstream near the Lewis County Bunker Road Dept. shop, the river narrows and has a corner with a high steep rock wall on the outside corner with a high bank on the other side.  At this location was an abandoned railroad bridge which was taken over the the State Parks Dept. as a "Rails to Trails" 50 mile hiking path from the city of Chehalis to Raymond on the coast.   This created another bottleneck that ultimately took out this high steel railroad bridge's east abutment.  Normally at a summer flow there is about 60' clearance to the normal water height.  This bridge was apparently not wiped out because of debris backing up against the main span, but against the northern shore piling and then taking out that section, as it appears water was only within possibly 8' of the actual span structure.  With this gone there was no real blockage and the water then flowed out over the farmland below, then into the small town of Adna.  When this bridge went out, it pivoted, swung to the south shore, then got washed downstream, accumulating debris then narrowing the river which forced water toward the north shore which washed the river bank out leaving a house with it's deck hanging over the river bank as shown in one of the pictures below.

About a mile farther downstream, one more dairy farmer John Brunoff, lost all but 12 of his 220 herd of cattle, his estimate of loss is 1 million dollars.  Only about 3 dairy farmers in this area were slightly high enough to have had no or minimal losses.  Also in this area one small farmer had started a creamery using sheep milk (instead of goat) to make cheeses.  He lost all but 12 of his 84 head herd.  Word is that he is getting a donation from another farmer in Wisconsin of 12 more sheep to help out.  The bad part here is that the cheese business was looking like it was going to be thriving enough that the wife had just quit her town job to devote all her time to the home business with her husband.

The Town of Adna Impacted :   Downstream another 2 miles at Adna, the 20 + year new Hiway bridge created another restriction somewhat backing much water into the town of Adna.  This bridge replaced an old bridge that had 2/3rds of it's span setting on 30' piling across a farmers field on the west bank, slightly upstream from the new one, these pilings allowed any high water a wider flow path under the old bridge deck.  The new lower concrete bridge just spans the river with a fill on the field's west bank, (where the older one was on piling) this now a land fill created a partial dam.  But those Hiway Dept. engineers went to college graduated from dental school and know what they are doing????  Yah Right!!!!

Just below Adna is a greenhouse / nursery got hit hard also, loosing 3 of the 7 greenhouses.  I personally shoveled up to 4" of muck from 2 of the remaining greenhouses to make room for any recovered plants.  It took 2 days for each greenhouse with 2 of us shoveling, running wheelbarrows for 8-10 hour days.  The bulk of his over-wintering plants were swept away, into a neighboring farmers fields fro 1/4 of a mile.   Those recoverable lost many of the labeled name tags, creating a problem identifying even those that were recoverable.  He had 58" of water in the greenhouses that remained, and 22" in the house, with 36" in the office.   3 large, 300 gallon propane tanks were never recovered.  His losses would possibly total over $400,000.  Even with many volunteers cleaning up the place for weeks, the question is CAN he replace the greenhouses in time to get ready for the coming growing season.  So he would loose his buildings, over-wintering plants, 2007 profits for rebuilding while still needing to purchase 2008 seeds, plants and supplies, plus make mortgage payments, and live in the meantime.    He now finds out that he does not qualify for small business loans as the business is partly agricultural, which puts him under a different category.  So now they have to prove which percentage is raising as compared to purchased and resold goods.  And all their electronic records, even paper records are all now destroyed.

On the other side of the river was another commercial nursery, that grew many ornamental trees.  Water came right thru their operations but apparently not the full force and they survived with little destruction even with 4' of water over their trees. 

Up that road 1/4 of a mile, a retired law enforcement person was in California for a few days during the flood.  He had raised his house 3' after the 1996 flood, but had 2' of water in it this time.  His pride and joy was a restored model A Ford.  His garage had 4' of water in it.  Friends towed the model A out when the water went down and did everything to prevent permanent damage to it.   However what was left of the leather upholstery was unsalvageable.  Of course he had no comprehensive insurance coverage on it.

Saunder's Swamp :  Downstream another 5 miles the Chehalis and then the Centralia area is another bottleneck where 2 rivers converge with the main Chehalis, Newaukum and the Skookumchuck at Centralia.  The Newaukum River (also in flood stage) enters the main Chehalis at the southern edge of the city of Chehalis, adding more water to the system.  In the early pioneer days this area (the Chehalis) was know as Saunder's swamp.  Here the interstate freeway (I-5) passes thru the 2 towns.  There were dikes around the airport and the Lewis County fairgrounds of which this higher water than ever before, overflowed and inundated everything inside. 

The fairgrounds had up to 14' of water inside the now overtopped dike.  Many of the fair buildings had 75% damage to them.  When the water went down there was a picnic table on the roof of one of the restrooms.    The USACE proposal is to repair and create a new dike works.  BS.  If you head south past the fair grounds on N National Ave, as you approach the Salzer Creek bridge, look to the east along the top of the existing fairground dike.  It is easy to see the new rock that has been graded in place.  Now look east to the main North/South Burlington Northern railroad tracks.  You will soon see that the dike is level with the top of the railroad tracks.  If any diking is to be done the railroad also needs to be raised.   Then what about the east side of Centralia and what do we do with the Salzer Creek water, pump it to the ocean?

The freeway had 8' of water over it at exit 79, partly as the result of the airport dike overflowing.   Again nearly the same scenario as the fairgrounds dike.

At the same time there is a small creek, the Dillinbaugh, that feeds into Chehalis from the east which is supposed to cross under I-5 near exit 77.   But if the river gets high enough it backs up the Dillinbaugh into town which then overflows from the east onto I-5.

At Centralia, the Skookumchuck enters the main Chehalis River between exit 81 and 82 adding it's contribution.  The one thing that helped this time is that there was less rainfall in this particular watershed and that there is a dam on the upper Skookumchuck that helped holding back much of the excess flow from that river.

We Have a Bottleneck Folks :  Also over the years high waters have built up a gravel hump in the Chehalis River below where the Skookumchuck River enters at Centralia, creating it's own restriction.  This hump was created over the years by gravel deposits from the Skookumchuck being dumped in during previous winter flooding.

No governmental authority seems to want to stick their neck out and authorize removal of gravel anywhere along the river to help alleviate this problem.    I have a cousin who retired from the US Army Corp of Engineers as an engineering consultant.   He was the person in charge of the whole Mt St. Helens project after the time of the blow and into the cleanup, he posseses a wealth of knowledge in a very close relationship to this.  He had just retired, moved back into this area after the 96 flood.  He told me that he volunteered to help on a citizens flood control project.  

Their committee recommendation was to widen the Chehalis at Mellon Street by removing riverbank and the 2 or 3 houses immediately upstream from the current Mellon St. bridge.   Leave the east abutment as it was but make a new east 1/2 of the bridge.  Then go downstream  below the mouth of the Skookumchuck, dredge the hump out.   The dredging was needed to remove the hump that is continually deposited by the Skookumchuck River flooding, then it's subsequently being pushed downstream by the Chehalis River.  After about 2 years of engineering, the project got scrapped because they could not get WDFW hydraulic permits for the dredging and were told it would not work anyway (some high official's stamp of "NOT INVENTED HERE SYNDROME".

I can attest to the fact that every year we get deeper water near the WDFW Borst Park public boat launch.   In 1990 I purchased a 17' fiberglas Glasply boat.   It was late summer, (mid August), I launched it at the above mentioned WDFW boat launch, ran upstream to the mouth of the Skookumchuck, then on up to Mellon Street bridge.  This was a new river section to me at that time.  My motor was a prop unit.  As I left the launch area, the water was about 3' deep.   However what I did not know was there was many large boulders about the size of 30 gallon garbage cans strewn in this area.  The end result was that I chewed a new aluminum prop up before I got out of this area.   I will bet that If I would try the same trip at the same time-frame this year that there will be 6-8' of water in the same location.  The bottom has not gotten shallower, but the HUMP below this area has been raised by Mother Nature doing what she does best in this case.   Now this is a mere few years as history goes, so just how much has it raised in the last 50-70 years?   And we can not do anything about it.   Save our fish.   Bull Shit.   This stagnant slow moving water in the hot summer time depletes Oxygen in the water above there, how many years in the past have we had fish die off in this stretch because of it.   Don't do anything to disrupt the fish so they will smother to death later.

This Happened Fast :  The water came up so fast that many dairy farmers lost their animals still in the barns.   Some that were outside got drowned and swept downriver.  County roads were severely damaged, many concrete bridges swept away.  Major mudslides occurred on state and county roads.  Power was knocked out in some areas.  Businesses were severely damaged to the point that many may never reopen.  Homes were washed off their foundations, vehicles were washed away or submerged.  Some were never able to be fully operational afterwards.  Those homes that survived had anywhere from just inches, up to 8' of water inside them.  There are stories of people being rescued off house roof-tops while the house was floating down the river.   One house in Curtis was washed off the foundation and partly on to the county road, which was condemned by the Health Department, was later demolished and burned.  This family has decided to rebuild.

Looking back, with the Chehalis River as much as 10 feet higher than a stage four flood out in Doty, and record rains falling, the sheriff’s Division of Emergency Management and its Emergency Operations Center took an estimated 1,400 calls in the first 30 to 40 hours, according to the Lewis County Sheriff Mansfield.   Disaster-related 911 calls during a serious emergency are funneled through the EOC and back out to the various police, fire and ambulance services around the county.

Modern Technology Helps
Borrowed GPS (Global Positioning System) units from the county public works were used to pinpoint each 911 call location in an unrecognizable sea of mud-colored landscape.  “I put a deputy in each helicopter and they were able to fly right to each address,” Sheriff Mansfield said. “Without that, we would have lost a lot of lives.”   He had expected the pilots would shut down at dark, as is usual practice, but with the GPS systems, night-vision goggles and spotlights, the rescues continued non-stop, he said.  One hundred and sixty rescues were made by helicopter, with the rest of the estimated 300 being conducted by boat or the Lewis County Dive Team, according to the sheriff’s numbers.

Volunteer Heroes Step Forward : 
The fire chief Chip Elliott for Lewis County Fire District 16 at Dryad, and incident commander for his area took on leading rescue and recovery efforts in his community along the Chehalis River in Dryad, Doty and Meskill.

Sheriff Mansfield praised firefighter Gregg Peterson and his wife Ruth Peterson, for tirelessly overseeing the Boistfort-Curtis area’s own newly created command center.  The house of the chief of the region’s fire district was totally underwater and Gregg Peterson became the incident commander.  The community covered by Lewis County Fire District 13 had just this year created its own disaster response plan.  “The people in Boistfort were prepared more than most others in the community because they’d already done a lot of that work,” Mansfield said.

In Adna, Elaine Lawler was not an incident commander, but jumped in simply because someone had to do it, she was credited for her ongoing response efforts in her community.  “She started on this thing as soon as it started, and never stopped,” Mansfield said.

Several deputies approached 100 hours on the clock in the first week. Mansfield’s initial estimates indicate the department exceeded $125,000 in overtime pay, and one-third that much in compensatory time incurred in the first two weeks.

Rescue From Hell :  I personally was called upon to rescue a lady and her son who were stranded in her house.  Her house was on slightly higher ground than her driveway but she waited too long before deciding to evacuate, and then could not get out.  She then refused to be airlifted out by a chopper because she was scared to go on it.   Mind you this was 8 hours before the river crested there.  Her brother, (my neighbor) contacted me to take my jet sled to rescue her and the son.  She lived on the other side of a railroad tracks (which is raised and forms a kind of a dike) from me, however the water was high enough to be going over these tracks by about 6".

My boat is an old 16' riveted aluminum Hewscraft jet sled with a 70hp jet pump for main power and a 9.9hp as a trolling motor.  

We launched the boat in the middle of Highway 6 on my side (west) of the tracks.  The water was not quite deep enough (about 6") over the railroad tracks for my sled to navigate over at that time.  We managed to drag it over the tracks, then into the swift water on the other side, but soon I sucked grass into the jet impeller making the jet inefficient, I shut it off, hoping the grass would fall out of the impeller.  It did but not immediately, so I ran the 9.9 down the highway, then turned into her long lane.  I did not want to go across the fields as it was nearing dark and the fence post locations were not readily seen.   Tried the jet again and the grass had fallen out, so we got to her house, we ran aground in her gravel driveway as we approached her house.  Visibility in the water was ZERO and it was getting dark.   She and son waded out, got in, we were ready to go back.  However in the coming down her driveway, I had managed to pick up a floating neighbors garden hose with my motor's jet foot (suction intake).  This apparently had gotten wrapped around something underwater in her driveway which had us anchored.  Her brother finally got out of the boat and got us free, (breaking off my depth-finder transducer in the process).  Now we were loaded down with 4 people, in shallow fast water and the jet was throwing water but would not move us.  The brother then drug the boat to deeper water enough to float us.  Started the jet again, but only to have it die, the impeller had apparent became plugged with gravel from her driveway.

Back to the 9.9 for power,  we were then bucking a VERY STRONG cross current and the trolling motor was not powerful enough get me in the middle of her driveway with the now doubled load.  The only way I made it out of here, was to scrape the side of the boat along 600' of her fence that was showing above water as the current was pushing me against it.  Finally we got to the highway as it was getting dark when I turned west (in the middle of the highway 6), to get back to the railroad tracks where other rescuers were with headlights showing me where to go, I hit something in the middle of the highway with the motor's prop. 

Later when the water went down the next day I found out it was the top of a British Land Rover that was submerged.  Later when tearing the jet's foot off to inspect why it appeared to be plugged, I found that her driveway must have been crushed rock, the impeller and liner were chewed up considerably.

This lady apparently does not understand many things about living in a rural area.   #1 you need to be pretty well self sufficient.  #2 if you make a misjudgment and do ask for help, do not be picky in the manner that it arrives.

If I had known before the trip that she had rejected the chopper flight and that her son was not a youngster, (he was actually probably nearer 25), my decision to help may have been different.  She did send me a thank you note.  However the next spring when I got ready to start the boat up, when the motor died, the key was on, running the battery down to the point it would not recharge.  And the motor was seized.  Actually what I found was a rock had wedged between the driveshaft, bending the shaft  ($168 for a new one).  I tried to remove the creases in the one aluminum boat side, but that proved fruitless.  It took 2 quarts of Bondo to fill the creases caused by the wire fence and numerous days sanding things down.  And 2 quarts of $40 a quart paint to get the boat back into operation and looking decent.   All things totaled to about $500.

Communications Interrupted :  At the time of the actual flooding hit the downtown area, our local AM radio station, (the one apparently designated as the emergency one) got flooded out.  So there was no local radio broadcasts that I could find until after the flood crested and until about 10AM the next day, then from a makeshift location at the transmitter tower on Crego Hill by that station's sister FM station.  These young men who manned it really provided a very needed communication link from the county Emergency Management, Department Of Transportation, United Way, Red Cross, Salvation Army with much needed information.  There were broadcasts where the locations of the shelters were for the then homeless, with a multitude of very useful public information with interviews with many agencies.  They (this radio station) had people on the ground, driving around, reporting back as to what roads were inundated or were not passable.

One thing I did not see was that I had my NOAA emergency radio near all the time and IF it activated in this emergency situation, I never heard it.  At one of the Adna community meetings later, the National Weather Service told us that they activated this alert a about noon on Monday.  One dairy farmer from Curtis, Pete Dyska said all of his cows were dead by 10:00AM.   During the questioning, this NWS manager said they only had one river height gauge at Doty and it had gotten wiped out.  Residents then asked why he was not reporting off the other gauges in rivers thru-out the area.  His response was that he only reports off his units.  One resident (a lawyer by the way) asked about the government gauge on the South Fork bridge at Boistfort.  He was not aware of one there.  The lawyer then told that since the vehicle that services this gauge has a government license plate that he as a citizen can only assume it is indeed a government agency.  No wonder one of the coordinators of this meeting quickly jumped in, changed the subject and moved this manager out of the forefront.

This is another example of one governmental agency to even knowing what another agency is doing.  It appears that some of these people are just putting in their time until retirement.  What the hell are we paying NWS for and having the rescue personnel push for us all to have these NOAA weather alert radios if the persons sending the alerts are sitting in their own concrete bunkers, not looking or listening the the real world of the internet.  The average person/farmer who has access to the internet  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wa/nwis/current/?type=flow,  can access a wealth of valuable information.   The site listed is from the U.S. Geological Survey website as is exhibited below in the text.  The above website proved very valuable to many who used it during this flooding.

The USCG, National Guard, and US Navy helicopters evacuated many people.  Law Enforcement along with many private boats also picked people up, transported them to higher ground.   The Emergency Management people said later that this was the largest evacuation since hurricane Katrena.

There was no newspaper delivery for those in or even near the flood area for days as the roads were either flooded over, or the roads impassable.  About all of the telephone lines being underground, were out for days.  With the phone lines out then computers were useless for e-mail communications.  Those that still had power found out what was going on around them from the satellite TV newscasts.  Cell phones became the means of communication.

Local Business Strategy :  In talking to the manager of Sunbirds Shopping Center, store manager Mark said that since they had been thru the 2 previous floods of 91 and 96 that they were keeping a close eye on the internet of the raising river levels.   At noon on Monday, Dec 4th with the water rapidly raising, they closed the store and had all their employees start to move all the high ticket items upstairs. This took them 12 hours, but proved a lifesaver for the owners as the store was still stocked rather heavily for the Christmas/New Years sales.  At the peak, there was 8' of water INSIDE the store.

Their plan was to first reopen the clothing section only.  Initially there was some minor flood damaged items for sale from the clothing section.  They kept the main store barricaded off while pressure washing the walls, posts, counters etc.  The damaged merchandise, (lots only the packaging was damaged) was put out and as it sold, more was moved out for sale.  This gave them time to clean up the rest of the counters and to repaint them.  Then new arrangements were put forth to re-arrange the sporting goods and paint departments back-to back nearer the center of the main floor.  This resulted in a better lay out along with less cramping between the isles.  In the long run it took them 13 weeks before they were open with nearly close to a normal stocking inventory level. Which was about 2 weeks ahead of the schedule he initially relayed to me.

Flood damaged sales covered many of the smaller items that were impossible to grab and run upstairs with, like hardware that are not really damaged other than the packaging.  Sale items were on about everything in the fishing department as lures etc. could not be moved. Some camping items are also closed outs, with most of the packaging damaged.  Clothing was apparently moved upstairs so it survived well.  Mark estimates that they will loose their spring garden market as well as the spring fishing season.

One local business person disagreed with me when I said it will take 3 years for the local economy to recover.  He said that business is booming, relating to the carpenters are all now booked solid, the lumber yards doing a landslide business, the carpet businesses and carpet layers are working full time.  He is predicting a rosy future for the area because of this.  He is not looking at the whole picture, as this will come to an end when the flood related repairs are done.

Many local businesses have closed down and will not re-open. This is all flood related in one way or the other.  A couple are because of the flooding damage along with the business owners had been an auto accident where long term recovery was not going well or they were near retirement age, they just decided they did not have the time, energy nor resources to restart their businesses again.  Others the buildings was condemned and rebuilding the cost was more than could be justified if the business was only marginally profitable under current economical situations.  All of this has a trickle down effect to the local economy because of now unemployed employees takes a bite out of local spending for many goods and services. The restoring the flooded homes back to livable conditions has priority #1 so any spare money goes into the home, not into dining out, or purchases of "wanted items", but "NEEDED ITEMS" instead.  Vacations will be non-existent or at least minimal for many in this area.  Sure there are many persons in the area who were not effected by living outside the flooded areas. These people may have jobs out of the area and can be so involved in other things that they can not see what is going on around them, but their normal lifestyles related to the economy will not in any way offset the losses by others.

Destruction Everywhere During Flood :  The freeway was inundated even after the main river went down because the airport dike now locked the water inside.   At the peak of flooding and for a few days later, the freeway was closed for about 20 miles.  The Chehalis city fathers would not act fast enough authorizing their airport dike to be breeched, (allowing the water out), so the DOT highway people did it on their own freeway right of way property.  This then allowed the freeway to reopen about 2 days faster.   While the freeway was shut down, freight trucks began stacking up both on the north and south as there was no straight road from Portland Oregon to Seattle Washington, without going east up the Columbia River gorge from Portland, then north thru Yakima, then farther north into Ellensburg, then west on I-90 into Seattle, an 80 mile detour.  Those truckers that knew the area found one bypass route east of the towns, but it was narrow, windy in places with no fogline stripe useful for night driving.  It did not take the county Commissioners long to close that route to truckers as the roadbed was soft  from the heavy rains and these heavy trucks could damage it.  There were estimates of over 4 million dollars a day being lost in commercial business because of the freeway being closed.

West of Chehalis, there may have been the possibility to use a logging road to get out north to Rochester, but with the water coming up, you would never be able to get back home as Lincoln Creek always overflows the road south of Rochester.   And if you could, you still would have had to cross the main Chehalis to get north to get to the open freeway.

Houses Condemned :  All the houses that received any flooding required sheetrock being removed from at least the lower 1/2 of the walls, along with wet insulation.  It was less work to replace all the sheetrock instead of trying to cut and just patch to the lower wet parts.  I never saw as much carpet being pulled up and stacked in front yards in my life.  The carpet people will surely be busy for months.  Most appliances and furniture were damaged beyond practical repair, so were disposed of.  The hardest to cope with would be the fiberglas insulation under the floors.  One house homeowner in Curtis pulled the flooring up to get to the insulation, as he initially had little crawlspace to start with and with the additional settled mud now under the house, creating even less space, he just cut out all of his flooring, then took everything out the top.  This was probably the best in the long run as the sub-floor would have possibly warped, needing drying it out anyway.  This probably shortened repair time so they redid the insulation from the top and replaced the flooring.

Debris Disposal :  One big help was that the owners of the local coal mine, Trans-Alta provided large trucks and bucket loaders to dispose of all the garbage from the flood victims.   They also disposed of many of the cattle that died, by either burying them or hauling them off.   The local garbage disposal company reopened the Meskill pickup site seven days a week for flood victims at no charge.

The people who had home damage had to either move in with friends, or borrow travel trailers or motor homes as a temporary residence.  The bulk of these homeowners did not have flood insurance.  Any FEMA assistance would come in 2 forms, one in actual monetary pay outs depending on the actual losses, with an average being $7,200 with a maximum amount to be $28,800.  This is designed to replace lost furnishings and to get people back into their houses, but not enough to rebuild.  This money actually came quite fast once things started happening, (in about 10 days).  Then if they qualify, FEMA can make arrangements to supply long term low interest loans.  Business owners may qualify for Small Business loans.  The farmers may be eligible for Federal Farm Loans, however one farmer said he would have to pay it back in 12 months.  About an impossible thing with the losses as high as seen here.

One homeowner in the Dryad area has his mobile home condemned by the county and it was uninhabitable.  He applied to FEMA for Federal assistance, got a check for $4,100.   Hardly enough to even begin to rebuild much less replace lost and damaged appliances. 

Unable to Communicate with Lenders :  Another family with a mortgage underwrote by a lender on the East Coast had their home also condemned.   He spent a whole day on the phone trying to get thru to someone with authority to even talk to him, but to little avail.  The time line is running out for the free dumping of flood damaged lumber, etc. and he can not get anyone to even give him some kind of go ahead for the demolition, but to no avail.  If he waits on them, the free dumping will have run out and just that cost afterwards would be near $4,000 out of his pocket.  If he acts without their consent, he will more than likely be out the whole cost of the house.   

Weyerhaeuser announced 2 weeks later that they will donate $100,000 for flood victims and are paying for fuel for generators used to dry out homes in the Doty/Dryad area.  This is admirable, however do they possibly feel any responsibility?

When the water went down debris and destruction was everywhere.  It sure cleaned up some peoples back yards, while adding a lot more to others.  Silt was everywhere.   The roads were covered with this silt and the vehicles that did any traveling took on a brown chocolate color no matter what the original color was.   Homes that the doors were closed or the windows did not get broken had only about 1/2" inside on everything, but outbuildings and any low spots that the water took a while to drain off had from 2" to 6" of a light brown, sticky, gooey, mucky silt all over.   The main river stayed a chocolate brown for weeks.   Even 3 months later the river turbidity was still high.

FREE SILT, Just Haul it Away :  With all this newfound unwanted dirt on the farmers fields, it is questionable whether that is good or bad.  Probably bad in the fact that this silt may not be farmland topsoil, but topsoil from the clay type soil from the hills as a result of the mudslides.  If there is enough settling on the fields, it will smother out any pasture grasses and could become hard crust until it is plowed under, but then they loose a growing seasons until it gets a foothold.

The next week, Blakely and Hout, a builders supply company that was also flooded was offering interior pre-hung doors for 70% off.   However when I went in and inquired, the salesman (who happens to live near Adna) said that they had to dispose of all of them because as as each day progressed, the doors delaminated more each day.  Next door at the Sunbirds Shopping Center, which was only partially opened 2 weeks later as cleanup was still in the process, was offering wet shoes and vests at $6.00 a pair.  A friend talked to one of the owners who had went out of town to purchase Christmas gifts, only to have had their car broken into and all the gifts stolen when they got back from lunch.   Kind of adds insult to injury.

Free Well Water Testing :  The County Health Dept. offered free well water sampling to those in the effected area and the result after about 2 weeks was that about 1/2 of those tested proved to be contaminated in one way or the other.  This is understandable in that the farmers (by regulations) have to have large manure lagoons, of which this can not be pumped onto the fields except during good weather where there is reasonable assurance that this will not create a runoff, contaminating the groundwater.   So during winter, these lagoons are at about maximum capacity.  With the flood waters well over the edges of these lagoons, you can imagine the possible E-Coli contamination present afterwards. 

Many older wells in the area were had dug shallow wells which the flooding covered.  It would be unknown as to what underground water contamination even for the deeper wells in these water aquifers unless testing was conducted.  Our well water turned colored and slightly muddy within a day even though the well is 180' deep.  Our home is just above the flooded height by about 25' total elevation.   When we called to see what was required for this Dept of Health free water sampling, we were told that since we were not actually flooded, we would have to pay their regular fee of $25.   Same possible water source and only 500 yards from the actual river level at flood stage, but we would have had to pay.

Bureaucracy Steps In :  Those customers on Boistfort Valley Water line were asked to conserve water after they got the broken inlet line reconnected.  This system supplies 2500 homes.  The flooding destroyed the company’s main water supply intake, flooded its Adna treatment plant and disconnected the main supply line to the Wildwood Treatment Plant. The main supply line located on Lost Valley Road in Curtis was decimated by woody debris sweeping down the South Fork of the Chehalis River. The damage exposed the system to sediment that can work its way in through the pipes and possibly bring chemicals and bacteria into homes and businesses.  Then there were some sections of pipe washed out and filtration of this muddy water would be a real hassle.   They did have a backup well that was then utilized.  With the water volume then restricted, customers were told to conserve as much as possible and  were told to boil it if human consumption was the end result as per the Dept of Health.  Even to restrict bathing if there were any open cuts.  

More problems to Boistfort Water as the bridge over Stillman Creek which carried their main intake line from a side creek had been washed away.  Within a couple of days a local machine/welding shop was supplied blueprints to make a new 2 piece 24" I beam, 90' steel footbridge to carry a new supply pipe.  He dropped his other customers projects, made the 1st section of it soon.  Then he went to the location to see how the new foundations were progressing.   Nothing was being done.  He got in contact with the water system the next day, he said he had to get back to his other customers but could finish the other half when they got the footings ready.  The next day he got a call from Weyerhaeuser's engineer in Springfield Oregon, saying that his shop had no authority to start on the bridge because the plans were only prototype and did not have the engineer's stamp AND signature on it.   The reason Weyerhaeuser's engineer is involved is because the intake is on their land and Boistfort water only has an easement across it.  Two days later the shop owner received the approved blueprints.  Guess what, they are identical to the first set.   But with an additional 10' on each end.   No problem to make this slight change, only the engineer believes this would weaken the bridge.

FEMA steps in, and now this civil engineer is the go between for FEMA, the fabrication shop and Boistfort Water.   Neither the FEMA officials nor this engineer are living in this area and apparently do not really care if the water system gets repaired in any resemblance of rapidity.   So the interwoven web of bureaucracy starts being spun.   Now this engineer is the hotshot from some large big city firm.  However it is interesting that on his business card there is nothing designating him as a certified PE engineer.   He is just someone who could not pass the test himself and/or is just a flunky working for a firm that IS certified.   He surely does not understand steel / stress / welding.   In the ensuing engagements with the machine shop owner, it became apparent that in some of the conversations by the owner, this engineer was winging it in the conversation as he had no idea of what was being told him.   At this point it became apparent that the shop owner did to not give a s##t whether any sort of friendship ever was retained between the two and really poured on the heat.

Guess what, a few days later the engineer called, said that Boistfort Water decides to abandon any FEMA help, pay the machine shop and get the job done.   Poor engineer's commission check evaporates into the muddy waters.   I suspect the general contractor has also been told to move forward.

This needed emergency project has set for 15 weeks now (03-08-08), the footings apparently have not been done as the other 1/2 of the bridge is not done yet and in the meantime, because of the needed "required permitting ".   And in the meantime 2500 homes are on a boil water restriction.  Boistfort Valley Water is to be complimented in saying to hell with the bureaucratic BULL SHIT.   It was and is costing them along with the community a bundle and no one with authority even cared as it did not directly involve their personal lives.

As reported in the local paper 3-06-08, the Boistfort Valley Water Company will be receiving some much-needed funding after the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development announced Tuesday that a $258,000 grant is on the way.

Boistfort Valley Water employees, have worked since the days immediately following the flood to repair and clean the system. The CTED grant is aimed at recouping some of the emergency funding the company has spent since the flood.

An engineer working to develop projects for the company, said only about a third of the needed repairs had been completed thus far at the time of the grant.  There are about a dozen projects planned for the system, and this grant money will allow the company to begin the bidding process on projects aimed at improving the main intake, running new pipeline and building a new bridge across Stillman Creek.   All in all, their estimates the various flood projects will cost a total of $750,000 in damages and expenses.

Boistfort Valley Water employees had rigged up a temporary intake on Stillman Creek after about a month and 2 months later got the Adna filtration plant back in operation.  It was said that before the Adna plant was made operational that the employees had to change filters at the Boistfort plant every 6 hours.   As of 3-22-08 the boil water ban was finally lifted by the Dept of Health.

Registered Assistance :  As of 12-19-07, Lewis County 1,995 people have registered for assistance from the flood.  Lewis County flood related damage loss estimate was 45 million dollars in public property damage (probably mostly to roads), and 69 million dollars to private property.  Business loss was pegged at $52 million.   For a total estimated destruction of $166,000,000 in this area alone.   The economic recovery time is estimated to be at least 3 years.  Unemployment will raise as business owners may not be able to cope may downsize or close and the dollar base for retail business will surely decline.  What dollars were destined for Christmas gifts will now have to be used to help rebuild to some resemblance of a lifestyle they once knew.  Others living just a few miles away may continue their lives as if nothing had ever happened.

14,000# of free dumping of flood debris was deposited in the local LeMay garbage collection site at Meskil from right after the flood until it was closed for this purpose on 01-12-08. This did not count any of the debris that was hauled off by Trans-Alta from the Adna Back park parking lot.

County Road Repairs : The local county road department worked weekends removing debris, opening up plugged or washed out ditches, culverts, cleaning up damaged blacktop and making the roads passable.  It is also possible that they may have taken advantage of possible relaxed governmental regulations as before was not possible because of needed permits.  If they did what was really needed now, no agency would actually complain, or if they did, "Kiss My What"?   Actual final road repairs will take time.  Some county roads were closed to "looky loos" and only usable to property owners or volunteer clean up crews, while the road maintenance people did their thing without major interruptions.   But this is impossible to enforce in that any person can not be prohibited from traveling on a state/county road.

Looting & Fraud :  There were some reports of looting.  Two men from outside of the area stopped in the Pe Ell area, when caught they said they had to use the toilet facilities so they picked the closest (then temporarily abandoned) house.  Law enforcement found they had also borrowed some kitchen items.  The likelihood of looting since many of these homes are uninhabitable and any thing of value could have been stored upstairs, night time looters have emerged.  County deputy sheriffs have been assigned to patrol many of these hardest hit areas at night.  Some have taken it upon themselves to protect what they have left.  One self appointed vigilante cruises around in the wee hours of the morning with a camera, taking pictures of the car and license plates which he turns in to the law enforcement in the mornings, surprising where these vehicles originated from. 

Another report of an individual who claimed he was a victim to more than one agency, but his address was slightly outside of the actual flood area and a attentive aid person questioned his integrity.  Then the local law enforcement had a unfriendly chat with him.   Many effected homeowners placed their damaged furniture etc. in front yards.  One question arose when other less fortunate or now homeless people who may have helped themselves to things they thought could be salvaged from these piles and law enforcement was in a quandary as is this stealing if the pile was originally discarded by the owner???

Deep in Debt & No Hope in Sight :  Many of these people had their homes mortgaged and with the devastation to their property, they more than likely do not have enough equity to refinance.  If they could, what would be the possibility of ever being able to sell real waterfront property in this area now?  One property (near where the Land Rover was submerged) the longtime owner had moved out, the property had been for sale/rented since the 1996 flooding.   It had just been recently sold, renovated by someone trying to do a "flip this house" and put up for sale.  It took only 10 years to initially sell it and now it is in worse shambles than many the other homes close by.  After the flood they pushed some of the mud off the driveway and some of the yard, went in, pulled the carpet, and wet sheetrock, but nothing else has been done for over 2 months.  The word is that they are going to just walk away, letting the finance company repossess what is left.

 It seems that the county building inspectors are condemning about all of the mobile homes that had any water near the floor, as the flooring in these homes are made of pressed board.  When it gets wet, it swells up then looses it's integrity.  One family said their home was condemned and has now been demolished.  Now they still owe $120,000 for basically a riverfront lot that now may be impossible to sell.  Another retired couple's house was an older stick built home but their only hope is to clean it up enough, put it up for sale as they can not afford to repair it along with refurnishing the furniture.  There is a great likelihood that many folks may just walk off and or even declare bankruptcy.

Two and 1/2 years later the rumor is that one dairy farmer who lost all of his cows in the flood, is currently in debt to the tune of $1,500,000.  This is a insurmountable debt that he in all probability not be able to recover from and all caused by the flood waters.  And to top that off, his wife has left him.

FEMA Inequities :   No home that is a rental income producing house will be covered by any of the so called flood helping agencies.  The renter will get some reimbursement for the furnishings but the owner will not get a dime for a damaged house.  It should make no difference if a person is in the business of renting or leasing livable property that happens to get flooded.  Making an investment and hopefully an income is paramount, who cares how, except out government under these circumstances.

The Governor of Washington State flew over about daily in a Army National Guard helicopter and had declared these effected counties a disaster.   President Bush as proclaimed them that also thereby allowing FEMA to come in and offer federal assistance in many cases.   Our State Senators visited the area frequently.  The problem as I see it the governor liked what she saw of the response to the flooding by her WDOT so now she wants them to head up the flooding issue and take it away from the USACE who have sat on their hands for the past 7 years, saying money was not available.  However it is apparent that under her plan the I-5 corridor will be what is protected and the whole issue will main flooding issue will get stepped over AGAIN.

Grassroots Basin-Wide Support Group :  There is currently 02-13-08, a grassroots basin wide support group being promoted by a local dentist and backed by the local newspaper.  I hope this gets enough momentum rolling where by going by the Governor Gregoire and Senator Swecker's backed bills before the legislature, these are just the easy way out, Basically protecting  I-5 and not looking at fixing the basin-wide problem.  

Update as of 02-20-08  a new bill introduced into the legislature HB 3375 introduced by  Rep. Gary Alexander would "provide the state's share of US Army Corps of Engineers flood hazard mitigation projects for the Chehalis River Basin area, including the project authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 and projects to be developed under the basin-wide study."   This appears to be a legislative compromise using some of the USACE existing plan while not overlooking the needs of the whole basin.   At stake here is the $50 million in state dollars to coax another $74 federal money into the project.

The Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Lewis County United Way all moved in and provided assistance where possible.  Churches and Fraternal organizations reached out with as much help as they could muster, which usually came in the form of bodies to help with the clean-up.  However much financial help has also being donated.  I was at a pre-Christmas gathering at my son's residence when a neighbor come over, handed him a check to be added to the other monetary funds his fraternal organization is involved with.  I even received a phone call, from a cousin who grew up in Chehalis, but now living in another state, who wanted to get information of any worthwhile needy persons that she and her friend (also who grew up here) could make a donation to.  

Local businesses that were not hit, even offered their employees, (while still on the payroll) to help out.  Most of the non effected people volunteered assistance in about any way imaginable.  Those that were physically unable to do manual labor cooked meals, delivered bottled water & a multitude of helpful things.   Carpenters, plumbers, mechanics and just plain laborers are offering free use of their time.  Response has been phenomenal, but the need is here.  It is like watching events happening that you only see on TV, but it is real and here now.

The State Park alone at Rainbow Falls estimates it's losses at 6.5 million dollars.

Shown below is the area that this river system drains.
River height gage for the flooding period.   See how fast it went UP in just 2 days. 
The horizontal red line is the flood stage.
More normal river heights for rain of 2.8" in 4 days, 2 weeks later
Graph of

Even during the spring of 2010, if there was 3/8" of rain falling in one day, there was enough water coming downriver to gather residue from the river bottom/bank to create a muddy color in the water at Chehalis for a week.

 

Below is a picture gallery.  Photos shown are just a sampling of the destruction.  Click on the thumbnails for larger photos.
About 1/2 of these pictures I have personally taken, while others were snatched off blogs or DOT & other websites.

Hiway 6 mudslide at Pe Ell Chandler Rd bridge gone Rainbow Falls bridges gone Rainbow Falls looks somewhat peaceful during summer Leudinghaus bridge at Meskill gone New Leudinghaus Bailey bridge at Meskill Bunker railroad bridge gone Bunker railroad bridge a month earlier
Mudslide 1 Mudslide 2 Mudslide 3 Mudslide 4 Mudslide 5 Log-jam on timber company land Arial view of Lost Valley Rd log jam More logs on Stillman Crk. farmland at Pe Ell McDonald Rd
I-5 with Green Hill school on right I-5 exit 77 looking south I-5 exit 79 looking north I-5 exit 81 looking south Mellon Street & I-5 (exit 81) Chehalis airport the next morning Flooding at the SW Wash fairgrounds Leudinghaus Rd near Dryad the next day
DSC01061
Hiway 603 at Hillcrest Another of Hiway 603 at Hillcrest Hiway 603 at Twin Oaks Rd. Hiway 6 blacktop lifted up Hay for sale sign 6hrs before crest from boat Hay for sale sign the next day Seattle, 86 miles at exit 79 The Governors chariot
IMG_2098.JPG
Off foundation & garage collapsed in Adna Quite a wave of water against this house in Adna that later washed away This is what was left of house on left after the water went down, Adna Wrong kind of air conditioning, Adna Most of their possessions sit in yard at Adna A bad dream at Adna river bank as result of down RR bridge diverting river Hiway 6 at Littell, you can't get there from here  Adna Fire District 6 station the next day
Dirty Thumb Nursery Local nursery greenhouse down Another greenhouse down This one survived with 58" of water in it Greenhouse muck Greenhouse cleaning Perennials out back Erosion & path of water
Muck & destruction everywhere Where did they all go? WOW Toppled fruit trees They went that way Brush/debris line across field A mess in the kitchen Garbage collection site at Adna's Back Park parking lot
Another load hauled away Goodbye old friends More muck everywhere Cleaned & salvage personal items Debris in farming field, there is 3 times more than shown here Power-line down Adna town inundated Wal-Mart parking lot
Stalled cars & road damage west of Adna Look what appears as the water does down Hiway 6 near Scheuber Rd Main road thru downtown Adna Rescue chopper in Adna Entering Adna sign from Hiway 6 the next day  One of many dead cows Dead deer
IMG_2153.JPG IMG_2124.JPG
Uhlman Motors from exit 79 overpass Sunbirds Shopping Center this had 8' inside the store West Coast Mills in Chehalis John Alexander's home west of Chehalis Fed Ex parking lot, State Street Chehalis City's poplar tree farm entrance,
Hiway 6
Dairy Bar in Chehalis Baw Faw hills, look at the many snowy clearcuts
got milk? CIMG0899 DSC01003
Safeway's shelves the next day Got Milk anyone? More bare Safeway shelves USCG family rescue USCG dog rescue A ballgame anyone? at Adna Chilvers Rd. & Hiway 6   Adna under water
Where to start salvaging? at Twin Oaks Rd, Adna Steam train railroad tracks relocated Hayliage bales washed away & against RR tracks Steam train railroad bed washed out Ceres hill,  mudslides in logging on hillside Dead cow in Bunker Creek log jam debris Refrigerated  container unit relocated at Curtis area  Ruined camper off Bunker Creek Rd near Adna
 
Condemned house at Ceres, with the other on left also condemned Lots of small sticks left after blading the heavy stuff to the rear of the field Same field as on the left, later during  the cleanup.  But still a long way to go Some decent merchantable timber off this field. Turbidity differences in South Fork &  Mainstem
5-18-08
  The Bunker RR bridge removal project
09-12-09
The Bunker RR bridge removal project
09-12-09
This is what happened to our neighbors on the coast where winds there reached 150 MPH during the 30 hour Hurricane, and rainfall was between 5 to 20 inches.  December 2nd & 3rd, 2007
Flattened barn in Pacific County Dairy Queen in Raymond Trees down Windy ? Oh my goodness Just as bad Aground Torn flags

Hello, I Am Your Neighbor :  Many volunteers, friends, neighbors and strangers have showed up to help clean up in about all instances.   Many totally unknown persons from out of the area showed up, offered to help, then spent a whole or even many days helping.

There are many stories that will be told for years to come.   Some of very brave people saving others.  Other stories of destruction that would never be believed without actually being there or driving thru the the areas and actually seeing the destruction.  Pictures do not really do the damage justice.

Casualties :  The first thought when you see all this destruction is "am I in a bad dream" when you see all the previous hard work just evaporate into thin air, is to sit down and cry.  Then reality sets in and these hardy people knuckle down to do what has to be done.  Their body is functioning on instinct and their energy is running on fumes.  One older lady that was stranded for days west of Pe Ell between mudslides said "I know God won't give me any more than I can handle, but I just wish he did not trust me so much".

A local meat processing plant got flooded, and lost many hogs.   But the major problem was that electrical power was also lost long enough to allow their freezers to warm up enough that the the USDA inspectors condemned all the meat ($250,000 worth) which they had to sell it for pennies on the dollar for pet food.

One of the largest TV stations in Seattle (KOMO), collected many semi truck loads of donations but when it arrived here, the local United Way sent deputies out to commandeer these 5 semi tractor/trailer rigs so they could be the lead entity in this area.  Apparently the drivers said HELL NO, this was not collected to be distributed to only one entity.  Word final did not get out as to what actually happened, but supposedly there were negotiations made.  Many effected people were so busy getting things done that they did not go for any freebies and as things wound down there appeared to be an excess of some donations.  At this time, executive director of the Lewis County United Way, said “The United Way business is not to be in the warehouse business", and wanted other organizations to run the storage locations.  So why did they want to commandeer all the donated goods to start with?

The Steam train association leases the old Weyerhaeuser tracks from the Chehalis Parks Dept.  With the widespread damage to sections of the 9 miles of track, it is not known as to the what is going to happen as to repairs.  It actually took until summer of 2009 before the tracks were finally restored so the train could make it's complete run.

The Washington State Parks had taken over the old abandoned railroad line from Chehalis to Raymond, removed the old ties, spread gravel and was making it into a 50 mile hiking path to the coast.  With the one bridge at Bunker that got washed out, and other possible needed repairs on other existing bridges, here is another expense the taxpayers of this state may well have to absorb.  Update here 3-2013, the local newspaper had a article on rebuilding 2 railroad bridges, this one at Bunker and another at Doty which is to start this year.  Guess what these important walking path bridges are to be funded by FEMA.

I have tried to portray a sampling of what happened.  I may well be opinionated, and may show a tad bit of sarcasm toward the bureaucracy.   I get a bit bent out of shape when a newcomer moves in then all of a sudden becomes a local expert.  I have lived here for 71 years at the time of this flood and I believe I have a better handle on the situation that some outsider just moved here 6 months ago from Seattle, has no concept as to what, why, how or anything but listening to the non-local news media.   You will have to take my word for it until you make a drive around the area, until then, you can not really comprehend the devastation.   Even two to three months later, many homes look near what they did the day after.  As many families have had to move into living quarters other than their homes.  You may see loaned motor homes from friends or relatives setting in their yards. 

The mud is everywhere and up to a foot deep in places.  Farmers fences are obliterated, their livestock non-existent.  Some roads a month later were still blocked by mudslides and are impassable.   Just getting ready for the 2008 farm crop may well be nearly impossible.  Weather timing will be a important factor to allow the farmers access to the muddy fields without badly tearing them up, get any debris cleaned off and prepare the land for planting before the planting season is too late.  The actual field crops that may get planted may also be less but of a lower quality.   It may take up to 3 years or so for these farmers to get their land back to near what production they had before the flood.  All of this will drive the price of good hay up for those week-end farmers. 

This year (2007) Christmas for many families was rather bleak.  However everyone is thankful no lives were lost.  Well not really, as one older man in Winlock has not been found even up until 2012 and it is suspected he was washed away by a seemingly small creek, another died of a heart attach and there was one suicide.   Monetary things can be replaced, but human lives can not.  Life is a precious commodity.

Could It Have Been Prevented ?  This will probably be hashed and rehashed for many years with finger pointing but nothing really being done.  The early warning system needs to be addressed very carefully.  One authority needs to pick the ball up and run with it.  Fragmentation and lack of one central command center appears to be the downfall in this instance which MANY people bearing the brunt of the outcome.   Then after the fact more fragmentation, as few of the agencies appeared to work with each other, the persons who lost most possibly got less because they did not work the system.

The local flood plane maps have not been updated since 1981, so now we have had (2), 100 year floods since then and now this 2007 one is being called a 500 year flood.   No one has even considered that we were working with very outdated on information.   The word is that some of the old-timers from the Curtis valley called in to the authorities early on saying that this is a flood of unprecedented levels, warn everyone.  But the pleas went on deaf ears.  

One tug boat owner who had his boat moored on the Chehalis river in Hoquiam, (way downriver, close to the ocean) said from the deck of his boat he saw lots of debris, dead cows, refrigerators, even house roofs floating by.

Major mud slides closed State Highway 6 at milepost 27 just west of Pe Ell during December’s flooding.  Construction crews have finally been able to access and secure the critical portion of the previously unstable slope, giving WSDOT engineers a chance to do some drilling to access the stability of the slope.  This section of the highway will reopen to traffic during nighttime hours starting Feb. 13-2008, according to a press release from the WSDOT.  One lane will remain closed and flaggers will be on site directing traffic through the duration of construction work.  A spotter will be watching the slope, which will be illuminated by a flood light.  

Contractor crews began repairs to the unstable slope on Jan. 28, after geotechnical engineers determined the safest course of action to repair the area. Construction work will be complete in early spring, as crews remove about 75,000 cubic yards of debris from the slope adjacent to the highway, down to the bedrock, and re-grade the remaining slope.  Update as of 3-17-08 this highway was opened for 2 lane passage 24 hours a day.

Since this happened, countless hours have been devoted to meetings and studies of the basin.  December 2014 the reports were presented and it appears the Governor is now approving a dam on the mainstem Chehalis above PeEll, in opposition to some.  But it seems that those voices may not be well informed and have theri hearing aids turn off.

Hindsight :  After 2 house fires on houses that were in the process of being repaired, the county now has offered to co-ordinate with the Washington Dept. of labor and Industries Electrical Inspection to inspect houses that were flooded.  This seems rather redundant in that now many of these houses have already been re-sheet-rocked and are now almost livable.   It would seem a more appropriate time to have offered this earlier on.

There was no real coordination between these (trying to help agencies) and it came out later that Federal or state “recoupment” can not occur when a “duplication of services” is identified via an audit following distribution of federal and state funds.  If money is not spent on exactly what FEMA or the state had allocated the money for, the individual in violation could be responsible for paying those funds back, according to FEMA.   The United Way made available at no cost, sheetrock and insulation to the effected homeowners.   But the donated building supplies and appliances could put residents at risk for ‘recoupment’ if they failed to follow the guidelines placed on federal grants and loans.  The United Way director was quoted, “I had no idea about duplication of services".   Like most governmental run agencies the right hand does not know what the left one is doing and the ones caught in the middle are the poor people who really needed the help to start with.   Just more confusion.  

Sure many of these helpful agencies did admirable and needed things, but in many cases, may have hurt those who they were trying to help.   Total lack of real time preparedness and communication.  It seems that many of these agencies want much of the power and glory, but do not take into consideration that if they could all have worked together, things would have run smoother, could have been a lot better for everyone.  There is now a meeting set up to try to see what went wrong and possible ways to fix it next time.  I say its about time. 

If in the final analysis if it shows that the timber companies may have contributed a major share of responsibility, they will pass the buck to the Department of Natural Resources, who supposedly approved the logging permit for these areas.  So nothing will be done, just finger pointing and I told you so's.   And the timber companies will say that we would have had the flooding anyway because of the tremendous amounts of rain that fell in the short periods of time.   Again just another excuse.

As of 3-20-08 a new flood map has been formulated, but since this was a "500 year flood", it would appear that the new map may well be exaggerated & force some home builders to raise the site higher before a permit would be approved.

Fish Survival ? :  How is all of this related to fish survival?  Well not good, as the spring/summer Chinook spawn from June thru normally September depending on the river flow.  The fall Chinook salmon spawn in the main rivers from October and into November, but the smaller tributaries do not support their requirements.   Now with all of this fast flowing water and then lots of sediment for months later, any eggs that may have initially survived will be smothered, then die. 

The Coho on the other hand had spawned, in the tributaries and nearer the headwaters from late November into January, (or were in the process depending on if they were the early or late run of fish),  so they could possibly have a slightly better survival rate.  However in this THICK muddy river water it is questionable that the returning adults even could have survived to make it up and into the tributaries.  One retired logger has for over 25 years raised 100,000 Coho salmon eggs in an RSI  (see article) and releases them into Deep Creek each fall.   This year the high water should have brought back some of his previously released fish as spawners to his creek, however he never saw one salmon return this year and a neighbor only saw 3.

The fall of 2006 there was lots of flooding, but not as serious as the December 2007 floods, but enough to raise concerns for the salmon egg survival then, now a worse flood happened the following year.  Another possible total wipe out of that year's meager wild Chinook salmon run in the upper Chehalis River.  

The Grays Harbor WDFW Ad Hoc Advisory Committee, (established in 2004) has been supportive of conservation measures to ensure the returning Chinook and Coho to the Chehalis Basin.   Estimated returning harvestable fish was borderline as whether a harvest was advisable.  However WDFW fish management has repeatedly allowed fishing, (both sport and commercial) at critical timing, with the catch being considerably more than allowable under the set guidelines.  They seem to need both hearing aids and glasses.   But on the other hand the fish numbers are critically low, drastic measures need to be taken to bring them back to manageable numbers.   And then there is the tribal netters involved in their 50% allocation from the Bolt decision.

During the spring of 2010 prior to the years NOF salmon season process, I asked WDFW biologists what salmon returns we were to expect for the coming year, taken into account that would be the first year for any salmon to return that were effected by the 2007 flood.  Their response was that "we do not see any significant difference for returns this year because of any flooding in 2007 because the salmon had already spawned by the time of the flood."  They do not take into account that this fine silt is everywhere in the river system and yes the the bulk of the fish had spawned by then, but what eggs that did survive the onrush of water would very likely have been smothered by the silt that settled afterwards.  And they predict record numbers of non-hatchery Coho to return to the system for 2010.  If this is the case maybe we need a major flood more often to help the salmon????

Photos below are of log-jams in lower Bunker Creek with a before and after.  Deep Creek and Bunker Creek merge about a mile above this log-jams with the main Chehalis River being less than 1/2 a mile below.   The concern was that if this blockage is not removed, would salmon trying to return, be able to get upstream thru it?

Washington Department of Natural Resources arranged for a contractor to clear this debris (03-05-08) at no charge to the landowner.  This logjam was so solid that a large excavator walked itself across the logs from the LH side to do the work on the RH bank, then left enough to go back across and then did the final cleaning from the LH bank.

Bunker Creek log jam in Sidorski's field after water receded Bunker Creek, after log jam removal, photo taken from opposite side of creek as photo on left

In the link following, you will see the river turbidity.   Sorry but I did not think about this early on.  I did have some water saved from the actual flooding so did stir it up and have a photo of the close proximity of the turbidity during the flood.  The other photos are taken from the mouth of the South Fork of the Chehalis, just upstream about a 1 mile on the mainstem Chehalis to show any differences in the turbidity of the two rivers.  Photos are not taken on an actual time span basis, but usually when there has been no rain to speak of for some time allowing the rivers to clear up, then again within a couple of days after a rain of an inch or so.

The photos are taken of a small white bucket 5'" in diameter & the water is filled 5 1/2" deep.  Link to turbidity page.

 

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Originated 12-10-07, Last updated 12-23-2014 
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