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About Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 1, 2008)
V E R N O N I A’ S
reflecting the spirit of our community
Pages 10 & 11
Quick-Rising Water Has Massive Impact
By Scott Laird
On December 3, 2007
history repeated itself
in the Nehalem River
Valley. What most resi-
dents of Vernonia, Mist
and Birkenfeld hoped
they would not see for
another 100 years ar-
rived at midmorning as
Rock Creek and the Ne-
halem River overflowed
their banks, reviving
memories of the Flood
of ‘96. Two hurricane
type storms dumped
a weekend full of rain
on the Vernonia area, over eighteen inches in forty-eight hours, with eleven and a
half inches of rain in the twenty-four hours from 8 a.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Monday.
Quick-rising water caught most residents by surprise. Emergency personnel were
activated and immediately put to work with hurried evacuations and then rescues.
Unprepared homeowners and business owners could only watch as flood waters
swept over their properties. The Flood of 2007 arrived swiftly leaving behind a
community in turmoil.
“This wasn’t ‘96,” said Vernonia Fire Chief Paul Epler, “This was a different type
Epler knew there was going to be trouble when the first call came for a flooded base-
ment at 5:30 a.m. When a check on the river gauge upstream showed water rising
at one foot per hour, Epler began to expect the worst. “At 8:23 a.m. I put out an All
Call asking for all volunteer First Responders to report to the fire station. By 9:00
a.m. I knew the downtown corridor was going to flood. We immediately started go-
ing door to door to encourage people to evacuate.”
At 9:41 a.m. the first call came in reporting flooding south of Bridge Street at Madi-
son and Jefferson Streets as water began to back up where Rock Creek meets the
Nehalem. High water came across the sports fields behind the school buildings, and
then entered the schools. Volunteers attempted to salvage as much food as possible
from the cafeteria, wading through thigh deep water to reach the middle school. At
11:00 a.m.. calls starting coming in from Mist Drive on the north end of town. At
noon calls started from the Timber Road area south of town. And then it just got
worse. Residents could only watch as the water continued to rise, entering busi-
nesses, shops, garages, and homes in the low-lying areas.
Rescue resources were immediately stretched thin. “Anytime we have more than
two calls in an hour we get maxed out,” explained Chief Epler. “Calls were com-
ing in every few minutes through out the afternoon. Declaration of Emergency was
declared, with a Unified Command established between the Fire and Rescue and
Evacuation centers were quickly established on high ground at the former Lincoln
Grade School and then at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and at Cedar Ridge Retreat
Center on the other side of a divided town. Residents who were displaced found
safety, hot meals, and cots at the centers.
Vernonia Mayor Sally Harrison was one of those affected by the flood. Her home
on Mist Drive, overlooking the Nehalem River was flooded with about two feet
of water. “Like everyone else, I kept thinking it was going to stop. I kept think-
ing it was not going
to be as bad as ‘96.
We just weren’t pre-
pared. And then it
was too late to get
who cares for her
husband who is in
the late stages of
the night with her
family in the second
floor of their home.
The water contin-
ued to rise through
the afternoon cut-
ting the town of
Vernonia into sections, stranding many residents, some of whom had children they
were unable to reach. Electrical power was cut off and local phone service disrupt-
ed, leaving many people in the dark and unable to make contact with loved ones.
Continued on page 19
Article Generates Compassion for Local Family
By Scott Laird
The December 14 issue of the Oregonian featured a story that was close to the hearts of many Vernonians. The
plight of Dean Schaumburg, his wife Kendra, and their one year old son Sylas was the focus of a front-page story that
has elicited an overwhelming response from the Portland area.
Dean Schaumburg was injured in a logging accident in August. Dean suffered serious injuries including multiple
spinal fractures, then suffering a stroke as hospital staff attempted to save his life. Dean fought hard and survived,
and has been working his way through rehabilitation. Dean was getting ready to come home to Vernonia on December
6th to continue his recovery, but could not as the Schaumburg’s home was flooded with over four feet of water. They
lost almost everything.
Oregonian columnist Steve Duin wrote about the Schaumburg’s situation eleven days after the flood. Duin sug-
gested that Portland area readers who wished to help the Schaumburg family (Dean had no medical insurance when he
was injured) send a donation to a Vernonia Post Office box. Over the weekend the Schaumburg’s received hundreds
of cards and letters. And they keep coming.
In a statement to Vernonia’s Voice, the Schaumburg’s expressed their gratitude for the support they had received.
“We have been overwhelmed by the response to the Oregonian article. We want to say thank you to everyone, and
especially to the town of Vernonia for all the fundraisers that were held earlier. The town has just been great. We can’t
say enough about what everyone has done to help.”
Dean and Kendra’s story gets just a little bit better. Vernonia residents Casey Mitchell and Dana Hyde and Mitch-
ell’s co-worker Bruce Holz undertook an amazing project. Inspired by the Schaumburg’s situation and the article in
the Oregonian, the trio have begun assembling contractors, supplies and other donations, and are on their way to being
able to build the Schaumburgs a new home. Mike Pihl Logging has donated a 5,000 square foot lot on high ground to
site the new structure. Mitchell has secured plans and other resources, including Suburban Door and Kemper Drywall,
through his employment connections at Community Action Team in St. Helens. “We’re far enough along now, I don’t
see how this won’t happen for them,” said Mitchell. “Dean is such a proud guy, we weren’t sure how he would feel
about someone building him a home. But he’s given us the OK, so we’re going to go forward.”
Anyone interested in assisting the effort to help build the Schaumburg’s new house can send donations to the
Schaumburg Building Fund at PO Box 174, Vernonia, OR 97064. The PO Box for donations for the Schaumburgs
living expenses is Box 41, Vernonia, OR 97064.