Dozens of homeless people displaced by Tillamook floods, local nonprofit says

By Joni Auden Land (OPB)
Dec. 8, 2023 11:54 p.m.

CARE Tillamook asks for donations as residents salvage for belongings

Lisa Parker waded through waist-high water to find that she had lost everything she had to the flooding in Tillamook, Oregon.

Her extra clothes, rechargeable batteries and wagon were all gone. Her cats also went missing, and her tent was practically unusable.

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“Everything is just covered in mud and soaking wet,” Parker said. “Whatever was standing has collapsed.”

Parker is one of at least 55 homeless people displaced by the widespread flooding in Tillamook, according to nonprofit CARE Tillamook Executive Director Jeff Blackford. That number only includes the people CARE Tillamook was able to count, and Blackford said the actual tally is likely much higher.

“It’s horrific,” he said. “People lost everything.”

Drone footage of the camps was posted on social media, showing the tents nearly submerged in floodwaters.

Miami Foley Road in Tillamook County collapsed on Dec. 6 after heavy rains flooded large swaths of the county. The county is attempting to build a permanent bridge within the next two weeks.

Miami Foley Road in Tillamook County collapsed on Dec. 6 after heavy rains flooded large swaths of the county. The county is attempting to build a permanent bridge within the next two weeks.

Courtesy of Tillamook County Public Works

Tillamook’s homeless residents saw some of the worst impacts of flooding throughout the county, caused by record rainfall that damaged multiple roadways and left dozens of drivers stranded in deep water.

The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency Wednesday in order to fast-track the rebuilding of roads and bridges that collapsed. The county also requested assistance from the Oregon Department of Emergency Management.

Blackford and Parker estimate that before the floods, somewhere between 30 to 60 people were camping nightly at an area in north Tillamook, commonly referred to as “The Island.”

Now many of those people have nowhere to go. Tillamook County has no low-barrier shelter — that is, a shelter that doesn’t come with strict rules and requirements for entry. Many residents are attempting to establish new camps at higher elevations, or salvage what remains of their homes, Blackford said.

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Related: Tillamook County declares emergency following $2.5M flood damage

In the days since the floods, CARE’s office have been inundated with people seeking basic resources. Water, tents and tarps are some of the most requested items as people attempt to reestablish their shelters.

Blackford said it’s been devastating for a region that doesn’t offer many resources for people living outside.

“There’s homeless in every community up and down the coast, and the flood waters and the rains affected a lot of people,” he said.

As of Friday afternoon, CARE was trying to open a warming shelter for people to escape inclement weather.

Blackford is encouraging people to donate sleeping bags, tents, tarps and blankets to CARE Tillamook.

County faces massive price tag to repair roads

The damage is extensive to county infrastructure. The estimated cost to the county’s road infrastructure has risen to $7.2 million, according to Tillamook County Public Works Director Chris Laity.

That includes Miami Foley and Sandlake roads, both of which collapsed after the area received record rainfall.

Miami Foley, Laity said, is a crucial road in the county. Whenever Highway 101 is closed due to a landslide, Miami Foley takes on the detoured traffic. Closing this road leaves drivers with few options to travel between Tillamook and Seaside, Oregon.

Laity said a new permanent bridge will be completed around Dec. 21.

For now, flooded waterways have started receding in Tillamook County, but the National Weather Service has warned that Oregon’s northern coast could receive more heavy rainfall this weekend.


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