Moisture is the Essence of Wetness

UPDATE: We’ve got pictures of the carnage!

It has been raining here for the last two weeks straight. In case you haven’t heard, Oregon is pretty much fucked.

The Hood River was a raging muddy torrent when I went down to check it out yesterday. The river was running so high and so fast that it was producing seven-foot standing waves, which would make for some epic kayaking if it wasn’t for all the detritus coming down from the mountains. Along with the slurry of mud and water there was an endless barrage of logs, brush and sticks, and the occasional tree that was 20 feet long and a foot in diameter.

Needless to say, for the last couple days the Hood River has been belching a constant stream of junk into the Columbia River, and as a result our waterfront looks like mayhem. There’s a debris field that extends downstream from the mouth of the Hood River past the Event Site, a distance of nearly a mile, and it is packed so tightly with logs that in places it looks like you could walk across it. As for the mud, sand and rocks that have been washed down, all that stuff has been settling just outside the mouth of the Hood River.

At the moment, Kite Beach has grown to the point that it pretty much constitutes the entire Hood River waterfront, and all the half-buried logs and trees make it look like a bone yard.

Things don’t get any better as you move upstream. I’ve heard that the Hood River crested at 14 feet above flood stage, and given what I’ve seen (which includes a picture of a railroad trestle mere inches from being underwater) it’s not too hard to believe. Highway 35 is closed between Hood River and Government Camp, as the road is totally fucked up. A section of the highway that parallels the river near Robin Hood Campground was under six feet of water, and in other places the road is chilling out beneath huge mudslides. The bridge over the White River is gone. Gone.

This past weekend Joe and I went on a hike to Burnt Lake, near Zigzag on the southwest side of Mount Hood. To reach the trailhead we took the Subaru on the rugged path around the west side of the mountain, which in many places is just a single-lane gravel washboard.

Even then, the road was nearly impassable because of all the downed trees from the windstorm we had two weekends ago (kindly recall my ghostly night at Smoky Campground). That road, part of which is the popular route to Lost Lake, is hosed as well. Not to mention Zigzag, where swollen rivers there have forced the evacuation of many of the homes that Joe and I drove by last weekend, remarking, “Man, just look at these awesome houses on the river! I would love to have something like this!”

Things aren’t much better elsewhere. The Oregon Coast got pounded, and one person died in Gleneden Beach. Tillamook, the small coastal town of cheese and ice cream fame, got hammered especially hard, with road closures and evacuations and the whole gambit. Record rainfalls have been shattered in places all over the state, with anywhere from 3 inches to 13 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

That’s the view from here. Monday it was 65 degrees here in Hood River, and so humid it was tropical. Yesterday as I was watching the river do its wild thing, the wind suddenly picked up to 25 mph or so, pelting my face with rain that fell sideways. This morning I woke up to an incredible rainbow over the Columbia River. Across all of these episodes, the one thing that I remember is that it was always raining.

Or maybe it was never raining.