Letter from March 19, 2008

A big thank you

Lending a hand in Lewis County

On the morning of Monday, Dec. 3, two Pacific weather systems met up with a third front coming north through Oregon. Storm rainfall readings from Dec. 1-4 for the region show just under 20 inches in the upper Chehalis River Valley of the Willapa Hills feeding both branches of the Chehalis River into the Centralia-Chehalis City basin.

The Chehalis River Watershed is a vast area of inland southwest Washington comprising broad valleys surrounded by many rivers pouring out of surrounding mountains and has always been prone to flooding. The 2007 flood event brought never before seen attributes to the normal flood scenario, extreme high rain volumes, landslides, an accumulation of trees and debris and the buildup of debris dams. When it all added up, an inland tsunami brought a wall of full-sized timber, water and mud into areas that had never flooded, or even been thought of as floodable lands.

Nighttime helicopter evacuations kept the death toll to zero, but by Wednesday, Dec. 5, river levels had lowered enough to allow for the movement of people and people were shocked by the levels of flooding and devastation. Log debris, homes washed off foundations, thousands of dead farm animals, and the mud — 36 inches in some homes and making former farmland appear to be an alien wasteland.

Many a community has discovered that natural disasters bring out the best in people.

That was certainly the case when the flooding hit Lewis County. Neighbors helped neighbors, strangers lent a hand to strangers, businesses provided supplies at no charge and emergency workers served tirelessly.

It’s very humbling to be on top of the world one week and lose everything the next. In the midst of this disaster, as well as loss of community, we’ve had some moments of clarity — reminders of what is really important: Family, friends, health and a realization that we know we will never have a chance to repay or thank those who assisted us, but we wanted to try by sending this letter throughout the state.

In the midst of the worst devastation Lewis County has ever experienced, we saw an enduring human spirit coming from citizens, employees, school children, faith-based groups and so many more to mention that truly lifted the spirits of Lewis County residents and delivered all we could hope for and more.

So, if you were one of those who came for a few hours, a few days, or for the duration to volunteer and to help get our great community back on their feet, or brought tons of cleanup and recovery materials, tons of food, tons of clothes and tons of household goods, please accept this letter as our thanks — your kindness and concern truly has lifted the spirits of our community when we needed it most.

Your help made miracles happen. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue the process of rebuilding.