PACIFIC COUNTY — While Raymond, Ocean Park, Seaview, Oysterville, South Bend, Tokeland and Naselle suffered significant localized flooding, other areas of the county scraped by with few major incidents.
Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott McDougall spent the majority of last week monitoring forecasts and mobilizing assets. He said he worked closely with local mayors, neighboring counties and state officials to facilitate a disaster response for the county.
Luck was a big factor, he said, because the Willapa River didn’t end up cresting near its historic height of 27.3 feet and instead topped out at 23.3 feet. The Naselle River crested at 18.28 feet, well below its record of 20.6 feet.
The worst flooding was isolated to low-lying portions of Raymond and South Bend, where dozens of homes were damaged during the week of floods and tidal overflows. South county flooding appeared worst in Seaview, where some streets were impassible for hours.
Big problems elsewhere
Neighboring Grays Harbor and Lewis counties didn’t fare as well in the luck department and saw significant flooding that cut off Interstate 5 for five hours, flooded major roadways, destroyed homes, resulted in dozens of rescues, and killed at least two people.
The Chehalis River hit its peak on Friday, Jan. 7, and Saturday, Jan. 8, and swallowed several communities in both counties. One rescue was conducted in the evening hours of Jan. 7 when a driver drove their Nissan Pathfinder into floodwaters.
They were abruptly swept away by raging water on State Route 6 at Twin Oaks near Adna, which resulted in a swift water rescue team being dispatched from Centralia to rescue them and occupants in a nearby home they floated past.
At least two dozen technical rescues were conducted over 24 hours.
Two incidents in Grays Harbor resulted in the two deaths associated with the flood, including a 74-year-old North River man who lived near the Pacific/Grays Harbor County line.
According to the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office, on Friday, Jan. 7, the man attempted to move a vehicle in his driveway and was never seen again by his wife.
Deputies from the Sheriff’s Office, fire department personnel and Pacific County Sheriff’s Office Sgt./Drone Pilot Jon Ashley spent hours trying to locate the man before search efforts were called off due to dangerous conditions.
Deputies and searchers from the local fire department later found the man, identified as Delbert Pratt, inside his vehicle approximately 100 yards from his driveway submerged in the river. They believe his vehicle slid down an embankment and was swept away.
Another incident unfolded in the early morning hours of Jan. 9, when a man called 911 to report that his 39-year-old friend was missing. The missing man reportedly drove into floodwaters on Porter Creek Road near Elma and called the friend for help.
He has not been located, and his family fears that he drowned.
‘We were prepared’
Unlike its neighboring counties, Pacific County escaped without fatalities. Had the unthinkable happened here as well, though, McDougall believes he and partner agencies would have been ready. The South Pacific County Technical Rescue Team and several response boats in Raymond and South Bend were at their disposal.
“The sheriff’s office also has a rescue boat, and the Raymond Fire Department has a rescue boat,” McDougall said. “Those have been utilized in other flood events, and they were all ready to be utilized in this case.”
While no swift-water rescues or high-risk rescues were necessary in the county during the floods, McDougall believes preparedness and response from his agency and partners made the difference.
“I look at what has happened in Grays Harbor County, and I look at what has happened in Lewis County,” McDougall said. “The outcomes here have been far more positive than they have been in those other counties. The county’s response to this has helped facilitate better outcomes here.”