Sunday, March 20, 2011

We Need Teamwork and Old-Fashioned Neighbors.

a 90 foot spruce and the tip of a redwood tree fell from our property across the neighbors road,
 I grew up loving the Little House on the Prairie books and Caddie Woodlawn and the concept of neighbors joining together to do seemingly huge things in a day.  I think that is why I love "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" so very much.  I know it is why, when I wrote my first novel, I made sure that the resolution to the Crisis, required both the villain and the hero to work together to shore up each other's weaknesses and form a strong and united whole.  What Duffy Barkley found in uniting forces, what the pioneers knew when they had barn-raisings and quilting Bees, I finally discovered in my own neighbors the weekend Crescent City, CA had our 34th Tsunami since 1933.

 My husband was out of town at a music festival with his High School music Students, and my teenage sons were out at a friends house overnight.  I had just been offered a job teaching in a new classroom and had done 4 days when the Tsunami cancelled school.  Friday was the Tsunami, and Sunday the house started shaking with wind gusts and lightning whipped in and was followed by window rattling thunder.  One loud crack was followed by another, the power blinked, the house shook, hail splattered the windows and was gone just as quickly.

 Then as I settled in in front of a rented movie, my neighbor knocked on the door.  "Your tree fell into our yard."  I turned to grab my shoes and tripped and fell in my kitchen, knowing that would be a sign of how the rest of the day would go.  I looked up from rubbing my wounded leg and saw the clock reading 1 PM.  Without even stepping outside, I knew this would be a huge mess.  I do not have any small trees.

The first glance confirmed that one of the 90 foot spruce trees had tipped over, tearing a hole in the ground as it uprooted and taking off the top half of a nearby redwood as it fell.  The road that winds through our 2 acres doesn't go to our house, but there are 5 or six houses beyond where the tree lay across the road and about 2/ 3 of the neighbors lawn.
 I could not imagine where I could find help on a Sunday, or how the people in those homes would get to their homes or their jobs, but even as I walked around, snapping pictures for the home insurance, the neighbors were at work.  Some of them are roofers and some are loggers and all of them are the type to see what needs one and do it immediately.  They called for chainsaws, and a friend with a loader and with raingear and gloves and a cooler of beer, they attacked the limbing of the trees as they waited for the loader.

 They attached a strap to the smaller redwood log and drug it away with a pick-up truck

Some of the limbs tower above a truck

These limbs were as big as some trees my Dad logged in Wyoming

Then the loader arrived and lifted one end of the spruce and pushed it off the road.  Limbs were piled out of the way, and although a lot of clean-up remained, the road was once again passable.
You know you live in the country when neighbors have a loader handy to lift fallen giants

The loader pushed the tree off the road

even the dog was ready to celebrate

three hours after they fell, the road was "clear"
I went along the road, looking for asphalt damage, and was delighted not to find any.  I looked at the clock and saw that it was 4 PM.  Then I found out later that that sudden gust of wind had moved through here, overturning two cars in Smith River, blowing down trees and power lines in the canyon toward Grant's Pass, OR and closing down hwy. 199 so my husband and his bus load of music kids had to take a winding detour which included a rickety, one way bridge.  It even knocked out trees 127 miles away in Medford and Ashland.
Some of the Good people
With that wind storm, and the Tsunami, the help available to complete the clean-up has been a bit slow, but the teamwork of good, country neighbors turned it from a catastrophe into a minor annoyance at worst, and at best, reminded us that we live surrounded by good people.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tsunamis do more than wave at Crescent City, CA

I Grew up in Wyoming, and the word Tsunami wasn't even in my vocabulary.  I had heard about Tidal waves of course, and earthquakes were a concern there on the edge of Yellowstone where my own cousins had barely escaped death in the Hebgen Lake earthquake on their wedding night.  The most impact that we felt from forces of nature were in the Blizzards that would bury us and the 100 mile an hour winds that were not rare.

When I married and moved to the Pacific Coast, on the OR/CA border it didn't take long to hear about tsunamis, but my main focus was delight that it rarely ever snowed and that the blistering heat of summer  was a thing of my past.  Sure there were signs halfway up the wall at the KFC saying Tsunami High water mark, and there were black and white pictures of jumbled docks and fires and shattered buildings in many businesses but this was 1989 and the tsunami landing and tsunmi lanes were named after things that happened when I was only a year old, 25 years before.

Then in 2004 the Indonesian Tsunami brought that word to world attention again, and the images in black and white were suddenly live, colorful, loud and beyond anything I had imagined.

Little tsunamis hit Crescent City frequently.  31 times they have been documented since 1933.  In 2007 one did $20 million dollars in damage to the harbor and the community began to get serious about being prepared for the next big one.  These evacuation maps were published and the community started practicing the live evacuation drills, holding one full scale evacuation last year.

I listened carefully to the instructions and made sure that our house was not in the evacuation zone.  I felt relieved to note that on the map just below we were about where the v lies in the word valley.  Safe I figured.  Of course, after hearing that the wave hit Japan and travelled over 6 miles inland, I'm not thinking my house is so safe anymore.

On Friday morning, March 11, 2011, just after midnight, my oldest son woke me by jiggling my foot, "Mom, There was just a huge earthquake in Japan and we are under Tsunami alert."  Ok, nothing new, I thought, why did you wake me up I thought,

 "Go back to bed" My husband murmured and we fell back into unconsciousness.  Then when the alarm rang I saw my phone lit up with messages from my brother in Virginia and My Mother in Wyoming asking if we were safe.  Then the school web site posted that all schools were cancelled and when I turned on the radio the evacuations had begun around 3 AM.

My boys fishing at small boat basin, Crescent City

KCRE & KPOD radio were amazing.  They stayed with the station all day, passing on information and letting people know what to do and where it was safe to go.  They kept a lot of people informed and out of the danger areas and the evacuation proceeded so smoothly thanks to them and all of our emergency services people like the CHP officers who were everywhere at once it seemed.

Del Norte High school and Smith River school were used to sheltered evacuees and other people headed up the hill to Hiouchi.

Sea lions on slip by Chartroom Restaurant

visitors always ignore the law about staying back from wild animals here but these guys move fast and have nasty teeth.

Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftan Tall Ships come here frequently

Commercial boat basin before the Tsunami

When the surges did start coming in at 8:30 AM, they were like flushing and refilling the commercial boat basin every 10 minutes for over 12 hours.  the docks shattered, boats sank or were sucked out to sea.  Those that escaped had no place to come back to and had to make their way up and down the coast to find a safe haven.

This community once had sawmills and logging but is now largely a fishing community, bringing in Dungeouness Crab, prawns and salmon, steelhead and halibut.  Some people live on their boats but many more made their living on their boats.

The Bountiful before the Tsunami, she is one of the few to survive.

Small boat marina

Commercial boat basin again.
crab pots in harbor
The harbor looking peaceful and sleepy wrapped in mist
the day after , the citizens Dock still standing.

Still we were lucky, one person died as a result of being washed out while taking pictures at the Klamath river, others that were washed to sea at Pistol river made it back.  One person died on a boat in the Brookings / Harbor harbor but that was determined to be un-related to the tsunami.

After Tsunami even the parking lot was scattered with asphalt, boulders, logs and a chunk of sidewalk was missing

past missing walkway to Beacon Burger

toward south beach in Chartroom parking lot

You Think?

Already life is picking up the pieces and moving on, and our thoughts and prayers are with those in Japan who were far less lucky than we this time.