wide shot of city hall

I went to Vernonia today with my husband to volunteer. We went directly to city hall, got a red work ticket, and drove out to a house that needed the garage cleared out. They were incredibly efficient, handing out tickets as fast as people were able to sign in.

one of many down fences

The folks on our red ticket needed their garage cleaned out. We found out that the person living there had been staying since the flood at a shelter with her three children. They were trying to clear out the garage to have Christmas there, instead of in the shelter.


We talked while we worked, learning that a neighbor needed help with his fence, that some stuff in the garage going to the dump was old, emotional baggage that at least one person was happy to see gone, and that these folks had all been around for the 1996 flood.

We had a free lunch from good folks who BBQ’d all day downtown. And we visited the schools.

vernonia high

All three schools – elementary, middle and high – were stripped to where the flood waters had reached. The rooms were all empty and full of drying equipment. Many rooms still had student work hanging from the walls.


The high school lost most or maybe all of their computer labs. At least one lab was in a portable classroom that was completely flooded.

former computer lab

It was chilly outside, but not raining most of the day. We walked for probably half an hour, all around the schools. Then we went back to the garage to finish up the cleaning.

There was only about an hour’s worth of work left. We helped move boxes into the attic, and open up the area around a tiny wood stove in the back of the garage. A local church is coming out on Monday to get the large appliances out, and then they’ll do a final wash before bringing a Christmas tree, and a few pieces of furniture in.

Another friendly neighbor is loaning the family a trailer to live in while their home is stripped and hopefully raised a few more feet off the ground. They didn’t know how long any of that would take, but were applying for FEMA assistance.

Link to

scappoose school district to take on vernonia students

Last night, the Scappoose School District sent out a press release announcing that Scappoose High School be accepting the students from Vernonia. From the press release:

Just moments after students completed their final exams on Thursday, December 6th, Sue Hays, the Scappoose High School principal, asked the entire student body and staff if they were up for one more challenge. The response was a resounding “Yes!” Unofficially dubbed “The Vernonia Project” around the SHS halls, this grassroots effort between the Vernonia Schools and SHS was the idea of students and staff concerned with how to help their friends and neighbors. In less than 24 hours, the effort has been approved and is underway to host the 6th through 12th graders from Vernonia left without books, supplies and classrooms as a result of the recent flood damage.

Vernonia students will start coming to the Scappoose High School on December 11th. Staff expected the relocation would last 4-5 weeks, but an exact end-date has not been specified.

Scappoose High, in conjunction with Scappoose Fire Station Share & Care Program, is also holding a fundraiser for the Scappoose & Vernonia Food Bank, collecting cash and non-perishable food donations to help restock the Bank’s pantry. All proceeds from the next three home basketball games will be donated to the Food Bank.

Hands On Greater Portland posts disaster response volunteer opportunities

Hands On Greater Portland has posted disaster response volunteer opportunities on their site. The partner programs are Victim Volunteer Services (Vernonia and Columbia County) as well as the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross is looking for folks to show up tomorrow morning (12/7/2007) at 8am. See the Hands On site for details. Vernonia Victim Volunteer Services is also looking for folks to just show up at their space across the street from Vernonia City Hall.

Hands On will likely be coordinating a few projects in the weeks to come. If you have some time this weekend, however, just head out to either of the locations mentioned on the Hands On website.

I-5 closure: chehalis & feds fought over funding, priorities

From the Oregonian Breaking News blog:

In fact, there was actually $30 million to control flooding from the river in the big nickel-a-gallon gas tax increase approved by Washington voters in 2003. But as the Times explains,Congress has failed to approve the federal share of the project while the cities of Centralia and Chehalis “have struggled to agree on needed flood controls.” While the project would have protected I-5, the cities would have still been vulnerable to flooding, so they didn’t want to assume the maintenance costs. As a result, Lewis County sent a letter to the Corps of Engineers last year rescinding its support for the project.

They go on to mention that Corps of Engineers priorities shifted funding to Katrina-related repairs and Iraq/Afghanistan, so even if Chehalis would have wanted to move foward, they couldn’t have.

I-5 is still closed, and Dept of Transportation says it will continue to be closed for several days.

From OPB:

Normally more than 50,000 cars and trucks would use that portion of I-5 daily. It’s estimated the closure is costing truckers $4 million a day.

news about flooding in oregon

First off, we’re fine in Portland. A little flooding in the Johnson Creek and outer SE, but nothing like the 1996 floods that put much of “lower” Oregon City underwater, and nearly brought floodwater into downtown Portland.

Vernonia, about 45 minutes from Portland, was not so lucky.

One excellent resource for news about the flooding in Oregon has been the Oregonian Breaking News blog. They’ve done a great job posting road closures and information about the effects of flooding as it is happening. One good summary post is Coast Recovering as Flood Moves Inland.

Another great resource has been the Oregon Public Broadcasting Traffic Map. This is always useful, but during both the snow/ice warnings and the flood and storm that followed, it was quickly updated.

I’ve asked Hands On Portland about a project in one of the areas near Portland later on this month. If I hear anything back, I’ll post here.

The pictures of the flooding were pretty awful. The schools in Vernonia don’t look like they’ll be usable for the rest of the year. Vernonia residents were caught off guard because all the flood warnings had focused on the coast.

The I-5 freeway between Portland and Seattle is impassible right now. An incredible amount of truck traffic flows up and down I-5 year-round. Reports I’ve read say that traffic through I-90 and Yakima is terrible, and that I-5 will still be blocked through tomorrow.

I-5 Flooded