By Spencer Hurbis | Opinion Editor
As the rain continued to fall, rivers began to rise and the water slowly crept up over the banks, onto the roads, through the pastures and into the homes of many Coos County citizens. On Jan. 19, county commissioners declared a state of emergency for the city of Coquille and Millicoma River areas.
Public Information Officer and Human Resource Director Mike Lehman said the commissioners convened the morning of the flood and declared a state of emergency.
“They do that for two reasons,” Lehman said. “The first is just to get the message out, and the second is to secure funding down the road to repair the damage that was done from the disaster. If there is a declared emergency, we can be reimbursed for the destruction that is caused.”
Most of the assistance for flooded houses were neighbors helping neighbors. Overall, about 20 to 30 homes in Coquille had to be evacuated.
“People were knocking on doors at three in the morning asking people to please evacuate their residences,” Lehman said.
Overall, the flood caused about $1 million worth of damage. Lehman said more than half of that was mainly related to road destruction.
Some Marshfield students who live near the Millicoma River were also highly affected by flooding. Senior Adam Souza, who lives on Millicoma Lane, said he woke up that morning, looked out his window and saw the water flooding his front lawn.
“Pretty soon, it was waist-level outside,” Souza said. “I sat down on the floor and started playing my guitar as I watched the water slowly seep under the door and fill up my room.”
When his house was secured, Souza, along with senior Shon Mobley and former MHS student Joe Daily, went around to nearby houses to see if his neighbors needed any assistance. With the water now at chest height, it was almost impossible to walk.
“We had to swim some of the way, and Shon was towing a canoe at one point,” Souza said. “We took kayaks and paddled around the cow pastures.”
Although there was some interior damage done to the floors and lower walls of Souza’s house, repairs were minimal.
Other Coos County citizens were not so fortunate. North Bend High School senior Rachel Schaefer had to deal with almost a foot of flood water in the bottom floor of her house while the rest of her house was surrounded by over four feet of it.
“It was really scary,” Schaefer said. “We moved what we could upstairs and filled a bunch of totes with valuable things. I filled one with all these things from my childhood, and it tipped over and dumped into the muddy water. We lost a lot of pictures that day.”
After a few days, Schaefer’s grandparents came to rescue them. They brought a boat, and her father swam through the water to get it. The family packed their bags with some dry clothes and stayed with her grandparents until the water receded.
Flood insurance for Schaefer’s family helped with structural damage to the house but did not cover the loss of any personal belongings. She said she can only hope an event like this does not happen again.
“When we bought the house, we were told that every six or seven years you’ll have a flood, and it didn’t really seem to be a likely event at the time,” Schaefer said. “We weren’t prepared for it at all, but next time we will be.”
Disasters like this do not happen very often, but it is recommended to be ready for them when they come. According to Lehman, citizens should have enough supplies to last them 72 hours for survival without assistance in the event that help does not come.
“The most important thing is to realize that we live in an area that is subject to very harsh conditions,” Lehman said. “Whether it’s flood, tsunami, snow storm or wind storm, the single most important thing is to be prepared, be aware and be smart.”