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.

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