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Archive for November, 2009

Swine Flu and the River Too

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Back in October, 5 weeks ago, my life took a turn sideways.
I came down with (H1N1) swine flu and spent
most of the next few days flat on my back in bed.

I felt better by the weekend, and at 10 o’clock
that Sunday morning, I had just finished
making my morning latte when my power went off.

At my house, when we lose power, there goes the
internet service and email, too.

“Oh, well”, I thought, “maybe someone hit a
power pole, and we’ll just be out for a couple of

This is not unusual in my small mountain community.
On the weekends, tourists and sightseers driving
up our curving mountain highway to gawk at the
fabulous scenery can get so distracted admiring
it that they end up mashed against a Ponderosa Pine
or a power pole. I know–I served on our local Fire
Department for 14 years!

I still had some chills and fever despite the warm
coffee, so I covered up with heavy blankets. As
morning turned into late afternoon with the power
still off, the house got cooler and cooler and I was
having trouble keeping warm. Finally, my husband
Charlie called a restaurant up the road and asked
if they had power yet and they asked him,
“Didn’t you hear? There’s a massive landslide that’s
taken out the highway AND the river too. There’s no
telling when we’ll get power back.”

I dragged myself out of bed, he dragged out our
generator, and with me holding up a gas lantern
just one of those statues of stable boys you see
along some folks’ driveways, he added oil and gas
to it and got it going, giving us enough power
to keep our refrigerator and a small heater
running. Now at least we didn’t have to worry
about me (or the pipes) freezing.

After 24 hours without power, we got our
power back on, but the road situation was more
complicated. On that Sunday morning, October 10th,
a huge landslide covered up not only the state highway,
it completely blocked the entire Naches River.

And as the river backed up looking for another
channel, it cut into and scoured away a large chunk of
the other road leading out of valley and toward Yakima,
where most people (including me) shop and work.

You can check out the Nile landslide here:


Tuesday morning we got up at 3:30 am and my husband
and I drove into work together. Three hours and
3 mountain passes later, we finally made it to
Yakima. That night, on our commute back home,
my life turned sideways again.

The one remaining road to town from our house is
called the Nile Loop Road, and it had been under siege
from the backed up Naches River and undergoing
around-the-clock major emergency repair. They were
dumping large rocks and laying down large amounts
of heavy gravel on the roadway to slow down the
Naches River cutting across it, and working to
raise it at least 3 feet higher in order to keep
it above the relentless flowing water. Only locals
and emergency vehicles are being allowed through,
and it wasn’t even passable that morning when we
left for work.

That Tuesday night, it was snowing on our way home,
and instead of driving back over the 3 mountain
passes–another 3 hour commute–we decided to
check and see if the Nile Loop Road was passable yet.
They had been working nonstop on it, working to
rescue it from the Naches River channeling around
the landslide that had dared to block its path.

When we got to the road closure blockade, they
stopped us at the checkpoint, looked at my husband’s
Nile Fire Department Commissioner identification,
and waved us through. It was just getting dark as
we pulled across the bridge and turned onto
Nile Loop Road.

Rounding the first corner, we saw water standing
on the roadway, about 8 inches deep. As we slowly
drove through the water, I felt a twinge of concern.
Next we passed a Washington State Patrol car slowly
heading back the way we came, then saw it turn on
flashing lights as it reached the checkpoint we had just

But it was almost dark and we really needed to get
through this section before we couldn’t see where we
were going. The next section of road, about a half mile,
was in pretty good shape, and I started to breathe
a little easier. Then we saw the REAL challenge:
the river ahead, racing over the road, with
heavy trucks nearby dumping gravel on it, building
it up.

We went over the last pile of gravel laid down with
a loud scrape of our chassis, with our final obstacle
looming just ahead. As they had been dumping gravel,
the river was being shoved to the side, getting even
deeper the longer we watched. They had said the
deepest water we would be dealing with was about 12
inches of water on the road.

But this was DEFINITELY more than 12 inches, and it
was getting deeper by the minute. Do we chance it?
Well, we had a fairly heavy front wheel drive vehicle, an
experienced driver, and the guts (or desperation,
take your pick) to go for it.

As we headed down into the channel, the river water
just fountained up and over our hood, completely
blocking our view of the road. The engine sputtered
just a little bit, and we both prayed we’d keep
moving forward. Scenes from those videos of cars
swept away by rising water flashed through my head.
Somehow we made it through, we got home safe.

Yeah, that was quite a week—Swine Flu and the River, too!

Since then, there has been nonstop construction on our new road.

It’s been incredible how much they have done in just 4 weeks. There are photos and other updates here:


Copyright © 2009 Louise Achey