NORTH COUNTY — Low-lying areas of Raymond and South Bend were the most affected by last week’s rare flooding event caused by snowmelt, heavy rainfall, strong winds and king tides.

The aftermath has left some families having to start over.

Rapidly rising water

Residents in the Peters Street area in west Raymond were hit particularly hard where some homes were flooded with upwards of eight inches of rain. A few were able to move their vehicles to higher ground just seconds before the rapidly rising water swallowed the area.

According to some residents in the area who asked not to be named, a backhoe and its operator from the Port of Willapa Harbor traversed the murky water to check on folks. A few admitted they were taken aback that it was the port that stepped up and not the city.

Each resident declined to make an official statement because they wanted to focus on repairing and rebuilding instead of dwelling on what had happened.

Battle to keep school district dry

The story was similar just a few miles away in South Bend, where dozens of homes were swallowed by rising water from swelling ponds, cresting creeks, and tidal overflow. Even the South Bend City Hall and Post Office were surrounded.

Willapa Harbor Drone operator James Samplawski took aerial photos of the destruction on Friday, Jan. 7, when multiple roadways were completely covered, and Mike Morris Elementary and Koplitz Field House were surrounded.

South Bend School District Transportation Manager Wyatt Kuiken, Superintendent Jon Tienhaara, and a team of workers/ volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the week to keep district buildings from flooding.

“Crews worked all night running pumps and mopping up water as it entered through the front doors of [Koplitz Field House],” Tienhaara wrote on Facebook after a night of battling rising water on Jan. 7.

“After 6 a.m., the water began to recede. Koplitz Field House is dry with no water reaching the wood floor. Many thanks to our crew and community helpers. We could not have saved our gym without everyone’s help,” Tienhaara added.

Kuiken has been hailed the hero of the ordeal because he stayed up almost every night to keep an eye on the water levels to keep facilities dry. His intuition also kept the school district with the upper hand.

“It’s a good feeling when you can start idling down the pumps,” Kuiken wrote on Facebook after fighting floodwaters all night on Friday, Jan. 7. “[Koplitz Field House] has some wet carpet at the entrance, [but] besides that, we saved her!”

South Bend recovering

Since the flood, the City of South Bend has taken significant heat from a handful of residents, according to Clerk Dee Robert, who is also the newly elected mayor of Raymond. However, South Bend officials were the most proactive.

Police Chief Luke Stigall and his entire department worked hours on end throughout the week conducting welfare checks, rescuing residents and helping keep floodwaters at bay, even while their family members were suffering flood damage.

Stigall was seen multiple times wading through nearly waist-deep waters, checking on residents.

South Bend was the most flooded section of Pacific County, with nearly 75% of the residential and commercial sections near or slightly above sea level flooded. US 101 by Coast Seafoods was largely impassable Thursday, Jan. 6, with upwards of three feet of water.

In coordination with the cities of South Bend and Raymond, and the Willapa Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency opened an evacuation center at the Chamber Building in South Bend.

It’s unclear how much damage Raymond and South Bend suffered during the floods, but early estimates suggest the damage could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s expected to take several weeks before official storm damage costs are tallied.

“All departments worked really hard and did an amazing job,” Roberts said in regards to South Bend’s response. “The departments worked together and I think the City of South Bend is a great team led by an amazing mayor.”

“Over in the City of Raymond, we were really spared, we dodged a bullet, and we were very, very lucky. It certainly could have gone a different direction, and there were a few people that were impacted but not significantly,” Roberts added.

The Pacific County Emergency Management Agency has been doing damage assessments and taking damage reports while simultaneously working to bring in recovery crews to help clean out houses and garages. If you need assistance, contact PCEMA by calling 360-875-9407 between 8 a.m and 4 p.m.

PCEMA ha estado haciendo evaluaciones de daños y tomando informes de daños todo el día de hoy mientras trabaja simultáneamente para traer equipos de recuperación para ayudar a limpiar casas y garajes. Si necesita ayuda, comuníquese con PCEMA llamando al 360-875-9407 entre las 8 a. m. y las 4 p. m.

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