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December 9, 2007 at 4:15 PM

Raymond — Trees down and businesses flooded

This morning, I started off in Ocean Shores, and then decided to head south to Raymond, a little town on the Willapa Harbor.

It’s a pretty central location at the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 105, which heads west to the coast.

On the drive south on 101, the number of trees down is stunning. If you can imagine a forest being somewhat like a spiky haircut, it looked as if someone took a hairbrush and combed over sections of trees along miles of highway. The wind treated the trees, which were one- to two-feet thick, like matchsticks.

And weaving through these matchsticks were power lines, which utility crews were still repairing this afternoon.

Melody Gerber, who I spoke to last night, said she and her husband drove from their home in Tokeland to Raymond after the storm. They counted between 75 and 100 trees that had fallen in the road.

Judy Hinkman, a Raymond resident, said that because the community is made up of many loggers, they were quite self-sufficient. They took to the highway with their chainsaws and started cutting down trees or hacking off limbs so cars could drive underneath.

Raymond, like Centralia and Chehalis, also flooded. The water on the main street rose above people’s knees.

One building, in particular, was destroyed by both the wind and rain. On the corner of Duryea and Third streets, the three-story American Legion building that housed at least eight businesses, was ripped open like a can of sardines. The flat roof blew off in the wind.

The corner yarn and weaving shop — A Willapa Connection — was one of the worst hit.

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Ruth McCully, who owns the shop with her mother Edna Latta, was still in the midst of dealing with soaked carpets, destroyed inventory and ruined display cases when I arrived around 2 p.m. And, she had been dealing with it for a week.

McCully is tired and the days are starting to blur together, but she recounts as best she can how she had to deal with fallen trees, floods and torrential winds that destroyed her business, and partially flooded her home.

It started Sunday night when the roof blew off of the business. The water started to seep in, soaking one story at a time. It destroyed the second floor, where she stores seasonal items, and additional inventory. Then, it started falling to the first floor, where she had her office and computers and main retail area.

Buckets, rubber bins and garbage cans were placed all over the two stories collecting gallons of rain water.

After bagging up some inventory — and not truly knowing how bad it was going to get — the family returned to the house for some rest and food. Hours later, the family came back to find the buckets full. Because they were so large, they were impossible to take outside to empty.

Again, they went home, thinking that her husband would have to work the next day and he needed to get sleep. Still, they did not anticipate the amount of rain and wind to come.

At home, they faced the second disaster. Encircled by large forest giants, trees started to fall down, trapping them in their driveway. Knowing that they had to get to the store, neighbors helped them clear a path with chainsaws. Once cleared, they faced flooding, keeping them from being able to travel the roads.

“We couldn’t get to town,” McCully said. “All the trees were down, it was a jungle. Six times we tried to get out.”

On Monday, some of the neighboring business owners, along with her mom, collected things and salvaged as much as they could. Her mother asked a building owner a block away if they could store the merchandise in an empty storefront. The owner agreed.

“We spent five years building this up, and it was taken away just like that,” McCully said.

McCully does have insurance, and since it was not caused by flooding but by the wind, she suspects she’ll be covered. An insurance agent has already been by. She now has to itemize everything.

She recalls a week ago Saturday, when the town was having a parade down the main street. She was standing on the porch of her business, and remembers thinking: “My gosh, we have done such a good job. It was so pretty with everything in the window. It was so nice,” she said.

And, now she’s tallying up her losses, probably $150,000 to $200,000, including the missed sales she won’t be getting from the upcoming holidays.

Already there to help is Disaster Solutions Group, a firm out of Texas, that arrived on Thursday. Hired by the building owner, they are there to help dry the building out and get it back up and running.

Scott Hinton, who is with Disaster Solutions Group, drove out from Colorado to help with the clean-up.

He said in a situation like this, they will get rid of everything in the building, pull up the carpet, or anything else that can’t be salvaged, use disinfectants, and then run 300 to 400 dryers and dehumidifiers, powered by generators, to get the building dry.

The process will take about 10 days.

Because it wasn’t flooded, and was drenched by rainwater, it doesn’t have to be gutted.

“This is different since it was clean water,” he said.

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