Washington State Katrina

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I'm working on the John Edwards campaign, and someone came up with the idea of doing a fundraiser and visibility event for John in Lewis County because of the mine closure last year and the flooding.  I contacted the admin for the Lewis County Onecorp group, and then contacted the county Chair.  I got the following answer:

(Warning, if you haven't heard how bad it is, like myself, this may be a bit of a shock.)


Sorry, this is so long - I am exhausted and wordy.  The combination is not always a good thing.  Maybe I am hoping that someone in the campaign will take this to heart... maybe I am just hoping for one more volunteer or one more new pillow to be donated (take that as a heavy handed hint ~smile~)

As a long-time Edwards supporter (in addition to being the chair of the party down here) I had been in contact with the Edwards campaign about getting the Senator to the county.  Lewis County would be a perfect place for a West coast poverty tour to start (please see the attachment: J. Edwards follow-up.doc).  One of his schedulers and one of his volunteer coordinators agreed that Lewis County would be a great place for the Senator to come.  I was told in October that I needed to contact the campaign after Iowa.

Then we were flooded.

More after the fold...

There is no way to adequately describe the total devastation here.  I am frightened for the people of this conservative county - they are scared to death but very, very proud.  Many have lost everything and FEMA isn't able to help them with more than a $28,000 grant (maximum) and we are looking at street after street of houses that have been red tagged - condemned by the health department or the city engineers.  These folks don't know where to turn and don't want to take hand-outs

All the wells in the flooded areas are contaminated - most are poisoned to the extent that you cannot even touch the water. Boiling the water does nothing except kill some of the e coli.  I had a man come in my United Way Center yesterday with his wife... he had a horrible rash all around and in his mouth (scabbed, raw and bright red) - he figured it wouldn't hurt to just rinse out his mouth with the boiled water... it did.  The doctor appointment and medicines are expensive for someone who has not only lost his home but also his job due to the flooding.

I know the areas and the people who were flooded and know the stories of hundreds of flood victims and would be happy to share this knowledge with the Senator.

I have served as the coordinator for the Centralia United Way Distribution and Donation Drop-off Center since the day it was supposed to open and I walked into the empty hall with my donation of garbage sacks so the donations could be sorted.  There was no one there to take the sacks and at that point I became the coordinator of the Center.  The love and outpouring of kindness and donations has been awe-inspiring.  The needs and fears and bravery of the people affected by the floods has brought me to my knees regularly.

I am incredibly worried about the area.  I'm not sure that some of the smaller towns and little enclaves of houses will ever recover.  Most of the homes left in Doty and Dryad have been damaged beyond repair.  One home has a foundation and the roof (about 20 feet away in the backyard) but no one is sure where the rest of the house is. Pe Ell is inaccessible and all the new housing there is (I have heard) also damaged beyond repair.  Cinebar is wallowing under massive amounts of mud and so many of the farms in this largely agricultural area lost so many of their herds, one dairy farmer lost close to 200 cows, an acquaintance of mine lost 130 sheep.  No one knows exactly how many farm animals perished. It was only the grace of God that there were so few lives lost.

The East end of the county still has not come close to returning to normal after the flooding that hit them over a year ago.

We keep reading that it will be at least two years before things get back to normal barring any more flooding or natural disasters.  No one believes it.  The people here are losing hope.

I have one young woman who now manages to find her way back to the church we are using as the United Way distribution center every time it starts to rain.  She sends her little boy to play with one of the volunteers and I stand and hug her until she can quit shaking and crying.

It is my concern that like New Orleans and some of the back-water places devastated by Katrina, Lewis County will not recover from this disaster.

I could/would put together an event, a speaking engagement, an opportunity to help a family and/or neighborhood with 48 hours notice.  Give me a week for a fundraiser and I could get hundreds of people.

Please give me a call at your convenience and we can talk.  I am at the distribution center from approximately 9:00 a.m. to whenever I finally turn off the lights and leave.



PS - Knowing where "24susan" lives I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that she was severely affected by this flooding.  Thanks for the reminder that I need to check on her.

Jan Nontell

Chair, Lewis County Democrats

I'm going to post this on DailyKos and the Edwards Blog.  And I'm going to lobby the WSDCC in January to have one of our upcoming meetings in Centralia/Chehalis so we can see first hand what needs to be done, and do it.  And I'm going to push the Edwards campaign to pay attention to a small 110 delegate state way over here on the West Coast.  We need it.

Also, Jan has been using her cell phone far past the limit of her plan to coordinate the relief efforts. If you can help her pay that bill so she can keep the "on the ground" efforts going, that would be great. Contact me if you can and I'll put you in touch.

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  • Another link by chadlupkes, 12/26/2007 08:24:59 AM PST (none / 0)
I can attest to that quality - many of these towns are our neighbors, many of these people are our neighbors.  I'm not 'from here' as they say around here, but we have lived in SW Washington for past eight years and I understand that while the region may be economically challenged, the people are indeed a proud people who instinctively reject what they perceive is charity and/or hand-outs.  

Microcosm example, and by extrapolation to the good people of Lewis County - I find myself compelled to having to practically beg one of my proud neighbors (Pacific County) to obtain the available help.  His family has been adversely affected by the storm, not as deeply affected as those in Lewis County as described in Chad's story.  His pride though is reflective of that quality as described in the email that Chad shared in his story.  Despite my efforts to explain to our neighbor that the help is not charity, not a hand-out and not 'welfare', it has taken me several interactions to convince him.  I'm still not even sure he will access the programs and services.    

Thank you Chad, for the story, and sharing the email which is descriptive of the kind of quality of pride, independence, doing it for ourselves kind of characteristics I have found to be true of the people I have encountered in our years living and working in this area.

I believe we can find ways to help that help those affected to keep their dignity and their pride.  


On the Surge in Iraq "--we have set the bar so low it's buried in the sand at this point." - Barack Obama

by Lietta Ruger on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 11:15:13 AM PST

* 3 none 0 *

Hey Chad,

I was just on the Daily Kos site and have to wait 24 hours until I can post anything.  So, you are my conduit to the blog.

Just a few things:

No more clothes... please.  We have more clothing than we know what to do with (and way too much of it is summer clothing when we are dealing with temperatures in the 40s and below.)

Checks are gratefully being accepted by the United Way of Lewis County (Chehalis WA, 98532) and American Red Cross Mt. Rainer Chapter (734 South Market Blvd, Chehalis WA 98532). Additionally, my church has a fund set up with all money also going to flood victims/housing if people would like to donate there - Harrison Square Presbyterian Church (1227 Harrison Ave, Centralia WA 98531).  Designate on your checks no matter who you send them to that the funds are to go to FLOOD RELIEF

Please don't call the church number.  We are so busy trying to answer the phone right now that we cannot help the people coming in... and they are our priority. I need every volunteer working with the people coming in and cannot spare them to answer phones.

I know that people want to come and help but we have absolutely no housing available.  This is a rural county and every motel room we have available is filled by people without homes.  Having a huge influx of people to help could (perhaps) cause a secondary disaster in our already strained infrastructure.

If you pray, pray.

Also, I was whining to Chad about not getting my cell number out any farther out on the internet than it already is.  I can figure out how to pay the bill, no worries.  And about the Edwards references,  Chad and I are connected via the Edwards campaign, so it is natural for the two of us to have been discussing John Edwards.

Although I usually hate to send anyone to the local newspaper, they have done a great job of covering the flood.  Here are some of the pictures if anyone is interested.



by chadlupkes on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 06:10:12 AM PST

* 6 none 0 *

Someone I trust has been doing some furious fundraising for the area, and asked me to help.  I said sure, and as I made a mental calculation as to how much I could give, I asked where the need was greatest, out of habit.

She said, "Oh, without question - underwear."


The water is so bad in the area that they can't wash their underwear.  And what stash they once had was most likely destroyed along with their homes.

Think about this for a second.

And this is within a short drive of our homes, mind you.

I almost doubled what I decided I could afford to give on the spot.

It may not be as dramatic as Katrina, but good Lord, it's close enough for me.

by palamedes on Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 01:09:20 PM PST

* 7 none 0 *

  • Fundraiser by jaybolt, 12/22/2007 09:39:27 PM PST (none / 0)
    • If they have by chadlupkes, 12/23/2007 08:58:09 PM PST (none / 0)
I have lived here in lewis county off and on for 43 years. the flooding continues along with the debate on how to resolve it.
One problem is the hospital: its on the other side of the river and when it floods cuts it off. just down the street is the old hospital, which i am clueless why the decided to close it! it has helicopter access and more important its on a hill!
the revolving debate is the buiding of a bridge over the river between the two scheuber roads. if the river floods then the bridge in accessable.

by lhsouthern1988 on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 01:47:29 PM PST

* 14 none 0 *

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