Chehalis 2 (2007)

Flooding of 2007 – Part 2

Based on the experiences I had the previous weekend, I decided to go back down south and see if I could help out some more. I’m glad I did. While before I had seen the devastation wrought in the town of Adna, this time I saw even worse circumstances. And part of what made them “worse” was their isolation. This farm was miles from town, on a road with maybe half a dozen other farms and while I was there I saw only one other family being helped. Rebuilding your life takes a lot of work, but it goes much faster when there are more hands to share the load. I’m pleased to say that for another day, my hands could be counted among them.

December 15-16, 2007
Total Miles: ?? miles, 2 days
Seattle, WA – Chehalis, WA

I left Seattle at dawn on Saturday to meet up with last week’s crew near Adna. Instead of working in the town itself, the crew had chosen a farm located a few miles further down Rt 6, and a few miles down Ceres Hill Rd. It was a desolate scene, with very few other people around to help the neighbors and the county only recently able to scrape the mud from the paved road that ran through the valley. Work had already been done to remove most of the belongings from the house, as well as the original plaster and lath from the 1936 home. The Kestings bought this house 20 years ago and ran a good-size dairy farm on the land. The floodwaters took most of that away from them. Many of the cows that did manage to survive the frigid waters later succumbed to pneumonia. I heard how one person could see only the heads of the cows, noses lifted to the sky in order to keep from drowning. When the waters finally receded the animals were so exhausted they collapsed where they were. The Kesting’s house, while still standing, also had 7′ of standing water and mud in it at one point. Everything from the ceiling down had to come out.

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The Kesting house; notice the high water mark near the tops of the arches.

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View of the house from the barn.

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High water moved mud into many places.

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The neighbor’s house. This was the only other house I saw people working on..

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One of the outbuildings near the house.

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Mucking out mud so the cows have somewhere to go.

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Barn cat survivor.

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Burning debris removed from the house.

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Pulling up carpet to expose warped hardwood floors.

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The woodstove burns in an attempt to warm up and dry out the house.

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Water seeped between the panes of glass.

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Punching holes in the hot tub in an effort to drain it.

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Plaster and lath removed up to the ceilings, as well as all floor coverings.

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Yours truly standing in the mud.

FEMA has been called in to assist, but word is that if the Kestings are approved for aid, the most they can receive will be $28,000. That’s not a lot of money when you consider all that they have lost, from tableware to the dairy herd. It will take a lot of time and work to rebuild. The daughter of the owners (I didn’t catch her name) was there with her baby, helping to haul away whatever she could as well. She said that her mom was still in shock at the team of volunteers who had swarmed upon her house, coming from nowhere in this time of need and asking nothing in return. And it is this work that will save this house, if it is to be saved. The amount of mud and water in the house will cause serious problems in only a matter of days if its not removed. Time is of the essence at this point. On Sunday I went back into Adna and spoke with the owner of the first house I stopped at last week. He said that a lot of people were scrambling to “clean up their house” before the inspectors came so that the buildings would not be condemned. As it was, I saw an alarming number of “red-tagged” houses on the main street of Adna. I didn’t check them all to see if they were the same, but the one I did look at said that the house was not safe to enter or inhabit unless building permits were applied for and reconstruction work was done. The gentleman I was speaking with said that his own garage was tagged as such and that he’ll probably just tear it down.

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Put enough diesel fuel on there and anything will burn.

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The grand-daughter of the owners.

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A pickup truck washed in from upstream somewhere.

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Chris dumps another load onto the pile.

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The farm tractor that usually moves feed for the dairy cows.

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Volunteers taking a break.

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A wonderful volunteer and her daughter, delivering hot meals to any workers she could find.

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There was a mobile home standing here a day ago.

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Cars left behind.

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There was no power at the farmhouse so when the sun went down everyone packed up and left. I stayed the night with friends in Olympia again and made a last-minute decision to head south in the morning. I wanted to see more of the area I had just spent so much time in.

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What the KLR looks like fully loaded for work.

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Flooded fields are home to seagulls now.

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View of the Chehalis River.

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The flooded valley from Ceres Hill Rd.

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The DOT is just now clearing the mud off of the road surface.

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Flood waters mark their 4′ height on these buildings as well.

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Driftwood and trees were swept across this wide valley when it flooded.

My route took me passed the Kesting place and I stopped to see how work was going. They had pulled the sub floor out and found what they were afraid of: mud. The usual 6-8″ of crawlspace (and duct work) was now packed full of mud. It was clinging to the framework under the house and would have to be removed. Barring jacking up the house itself (an intimidating task given the square footage and various additions over the years) this would best be accomplished by pulling up all of the flooring and shoveling out the mud. This will be a long and difficult task, I’m sure.

From the Kesting’s I checked out some more roads and views. The devastation is far-spread and almost incomprehensible. To imagine each step that has to occur in order to save each home, and the amount of manpower it takes, is daunting. The people of the valley know this and the overwhelming feeling I get from them is gratitude and hope.

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All flooring needs to be removed in order to shovel out the mud.

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Ancient wood planks finally meet their end.

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Dried mud means no pasture in the spring.

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One home that’s been cleared out.

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Railroad bed. Keep in mind these tracks are at least 15′ above the river.

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Not straight any more. The water was at least 3′ above the tracks.

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Notice the full-size garage can in the tree, well above the river.

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Boistfort homes still digging out. Note the pile of mud outside of the window.

Return to Part 1

Return to Chehalis – four months later

Tell me what you think! I want to know!