“I’m tired but I’m inspired at the same time,” says Diana Totten consultant on the Dobbyn’s Creek slide. The crews have been putting in long hours but they are feeling somewhat hopeful as water is eroding through the slide and the half mile long “lake” has dropped a little. They are hopeful that this trend will continue. However, the top of the slide is still very active. Trees continue to crash through the night. The middle is holding up the upper half and bulging with the mass of soil coming from above. There is a fear that this will collapse and a further wave of mud and debris will come crashing down.
Furthermore, the water of the “lake” rises and falls without apparent reason. When the water drops, they don’t know if the colder weather is keeping the snow from melting and reducing water flow or if a larger channel eroding through the slide is funneling water back into the natural creek bed. They are continuing to beef up the sandbags so that if the flow outside of the banks does increase, the home and the county road are still protected. To put into perspective the amount of water the crews are dealing with, a one inch drop at the home site is, according to Totten, a 2.7 million gallon water reduction. If all those millions of gallons currently penned up by the slide created “lake” were to let loose at once it would be a disaster for the families who live there and for the county road.
Yesterday, what Totten called the “local boys” used seat of the pants engineering to protect the worst affected home. Water was undercutting one corner of the house during the previous night so after a quick meeting in which ideas where “tossed up,” a consensus was arrived at and everybody worked together bringing loader buckets of clay from a nearby site and using it to pack into the problem area. They have achieved a measure of success and hope for more today. “The community,” Totten says, “has been unbelievable….especially the food.” She says that Charlotte Johnson and Shawnee Wood have organized locals to “keep us in food for 3 days straight.” This entails not only cooking and serving but “running back and forth to town.” This is critical Totten explains because, “You can go without sleep for 36 hours but you can’t go very long without food and coffee.”
All the 15 or 20 people employed at the slide are from Alderpoint and Blocksburg except Diana Totten who is currently living in the Benbow area. Last night, the situation had calmed enough that she was able to go home and sleep a few hours in her own bed. The night before she had tried to nap in her own pickup with the heater turned on to keep her warm. But she says, “We were all wet. The water had gone over our boots a long time ago.” As she was dozing off, she could feel the water on her pant legs. In the haze of sleep, it felt as if the dam had burst, the crew had forgotten to notify her to evacuate, and the flood waters were creeping up into her lap. After waking with that adrenaline rush, needless to say, she didn’t need coffee to keep alert for the next few hours.
Like the other crew members, Totten is glad to be helping in spite of the hard work. “I love people. I love where we live and that’s the driving force.”
Go here for a great Map explanation of what is happening.
Photo by Shawn Studebaker found on the SoHum Awareness site.