About 250 people remained stranded on the flanks of Mount Hood Tuesday, after the Sandy River burst its banks late Sunday, closing the ZigZag Bridge and washing out about 150 feet of Lolo Pass Road.
Kristian Foden-Vencil visited the area today and is with me now.
So can you paint a picture of what happened for us?
Kristian Foden-Vencil: Yes. Imagine a river winding its way down the mountain making large ‘S’ shaped curves. Well one of those curves used to run up against Lolo Pass Road and it basically ate away all the gravel, digging under the road and eating it away.
In fact, it appears the water was so high it jumped out of its channel and then ran about 150 down the road, washing away the asphalt and leaving boulders and big trees everywhere.
I met Vivie Benvenuto this morning. He said it was amazing to see.
Vivie Benvenuto: “Fridges, I’ve seen in the river. I’ve heard people saying that there’s big gas propane tanks shooting down the river. Parts of houses. Where the road washed out you could see parks that were parking in people’s driveways, slammed into each other. They washed down what was Lolo Pass road.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil: I also met a man named Dan Flood who owns a home along the road. He was outside cleaning things up.
Dan Flood: “You know, the waters came over towards my house and got backed up in the garage and knocked out a wall and front doors and spread my stuff all over.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil: “I can see microwaves, skis and fishing pols. All that stuff is yours.”
Dan Flood: “There’s stuff over there too.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil: “Spread all over the street.”
Dan Flood: “Yeah. Down in the properties over there. I have to get someone to help pick them all up and get it back.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil: “How long until things are sorted out do you think?”
Dan Flood: “The county has been excellent. They got here right away yesterday and I got electricity back. So everybody’s responding. I still don’t have phone but everyone’s been responding real well.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil: That’s something I heard over and over again — that authorities had wasted no time cleaning things up. And on OPB’s website you can see some of that work as well as some of the devastation.
Beth Hyams: What do authorities say about when the road will open again — how extensive is the damage?
Kristian Foden-Vencil: Clackamas County has declared and emergency and I caught up with Mick Eby, the chief of Hoodland Fire District. He said the flooding started on Sunday night.
Mick Eby: “And it was an all day event, creating a lot of damage. It washed out possibly four houses. We can’t get to one of them so we know of three. We’ve got 250 to 300 people isolated at the end of this road here. Because the Sandy River has gone not only over its banks but into the road and washed the road out for about 100 feet.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil: He says those 250 people have no power and no phone. But he described them as a pioneering type, which he said is a good thing because it could be months until the river can be diverted back into its bed and the road repaired.
Mick Eby: “And so they’re kind of hunkering in. They’re okay. They’ve been hiking in and out for the last couple of days getting fuel for the generators and extra food and that kind of stuff but we do have some elderly people too who do require some medical attention and right now I’ve got two teams up there going house to house making sure people are okay.”
Beth Hyams: Is the weather cooperating? Is it going to dry out?
Kristian Foden-Vencil: Well it’s been raining all day, but the hope is temperatures will drop. That would stop snow melting and at higher elevations, turn any moisture into snow. That should take some of the water out of the rivers.
People who live there are preparing for the long-term — Besty Frank works at Fred Meyer in Portland and commutes up and down the mountain. She now has a 45 minute hike to get to the highway and she says people think it’ll take a while to get back to normal.
Betsy Frank: “Maybe it might be months. but they have set up a place with Red Cross up the road to stay and an allowance for food. We’re going to have to look into that. But we’re still going to have to find vehicles for work. Maybe get one to share.”
Kristian Foden-Vencil: The good news is that inspectors think ZigZag Bridge is okay and a shuttle system will run three times a day between Barlow Trail Road and the Hoodland Shopping Center.