The focus of the Feb. 14 Plumas County Board of Supervisors meeting was hearing about the flooding the week before and acknowledging the hard work done by the county and its partners in dealing with the disaster.
Last minute changes by the contractors postponed discussion of county solid waste collection contracts.
Matt Solano and Ron Collins, representing Caltrans, reported that there were eight emergency projects going on from Oroville Reservoir to Chester along highways 70 and 89.
They reported that there was a slide blocking the Feather River Canyon just inside Butte County, and that 2,000 to 4,000 feet of Highway 70 was severely undercut within the canyon and in need of repair.
At the time of this writing, Caltrans hoped to have the canyon open by Sunday or Monday, baring extensive new damage from incoming storms.
Further north, Indian Creek dumped 4 feet of rock on Highway 89 near Indian Falls.
Highway 89 from Greenville north was “obliterated” when Wolf Creek jumped its banks and used the highway for its channel.
Caltrans was able to get Highway 89 open again.
Caltrans estimated costs of the eight repair projects at about $11 million.
Nick Dawson, assistant chief of the Plumas County Office of Emergency Services, reported that floodwaters from the Middle Fork of the Feather River rose 5 feet above flood stage in Portola, covering Highway 70 with 8 to 10 inches of water.
However, the county was able to keep traffic going in one lane even when the flooding reached its peak at 12.6 feet, 5 feet above flood stage.
This was important, Dawson said, because now the county knows at what river stage Highway 70 will be closed.
Fortunately, the flood did not reach the 13.3 ft level that was predicted.
Nevertheless, Supervisor Jeff Engel noted, “All the roads [in Portola] are buckled. It’s going to be expensive to fix.”
Joe Blackwell, deputy director of Plumas County Public Works, told the board that Quincy-La Porte Road was the only county road still closed due to flooding. He said that Thompson Creek had eroded a 25- by 100-foot hole in the road.
Six residents live on the other side of the hole. They have been busy carrying fuel cans in and out of Quincy in order to have electricity at their homes.
Thanks for the hard work
Board Chair Lori Simpson wanted to have all of the county’s emergency response team partners together at the meeting in order to hear from them and to thank them for their hard work.
Matt Solano and Ron Collins from Caltrans thanked the trucking companies that were able to work around the clock on short notice.
“Hug a trucker,” said Collins.
Sheriff Greg Hagwood said he could not have been more pleased with the cooperation he witnessed, “The right decisions were made, by the right people, at the right time.”
Hagwood wanted to especially acknowledge Dawson for having the foresight to have a Medivac helicopter standing by in Quincy during the emergency.
Referring to the rescue of an 81-year-old Taylorsville man swept away by flood waters in Indian Creek, Hagwood said, “Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a better rescue. That man would not have lasted another 30 seconds.”
The helicopter was also lent to Lassen County to try to save a person in Doyle. Unfortunately that person died.
All of the supervisors were very appreciative of the conference calls that Dawson set up that kept them up to date on what was going on.
Simpson said that this was the first time since she has been a county supervisor that she was really able to know what was going on in an emergency.
Supervisor Michael Sanchez was cut off by the storm from getting back into the area. He said that he was able to keep up to date on the flooding through the conference calls.
Dawson was proud to point out that the California Office of Emergency Services told him “That our particular operation was light years ahead of the larger counties.”
Dawson, for his part, wanted to acknowledge the work done by Caltrans: “Caltrans created a miracle in working on the road from Greenville to Chester.”
Bob Perreault, director of Plumas County Public Works, wanted to acknowledge the ability of his deputy director, Joe Blackwell in keeping all the public works crews scattered throughout the county lined out. “His ability to deal with all our satellite crews was amazing.”
Blackwell, for his part, wanted to thank the county crews for all their hard work and for following through on what he asked them to do without complaining. He noted that a lot of his folks used their free time to help in dealing with the disaster.
Blackwell got into his office an hour early every day during the emergency and called around to find out what conditions were like throughout the county.
Simpson summed it up by telling the entire emergency response team, “I tell everyone, our roads are our lifelines around here. You guys have been amazing.”
The rumor mill didn’t help
Solano noted that during the emergency, “Facebook was a public information officer’s nightmare.”
Lieutenant Sara Richards, commander of the Quincy Office of the California Highway Patrol, agreed: “We were really struggling with the social media. All the rumors were hard to address because we just didn’t know what they were talking about. It was amazing what they were coming up with.”
Supervisor Kevin Goss pointed out how important the OES’s conference calls were. He said that supervisors get a lot of calls and when they are kept informed, they are an important means of getting information to people.
Goss, for his part, was able to get a pump delivered to the house of one of his constituents and the owner was able to save that house from further damage.
Solid waste contracts delayed
Perreault started off his report to the board by noting that, “A funny thing happened on the way to the courthouse.”
Perreault hadn’t noticed until he was on his way to the courthouse that he had received emails from lawyers from the two solid waste collection companies operating in Plumas County.
The emails were sent when the county was closed for Lincoln’s Birthday, the afternoon before the board was scheduled to approve the contracts.
The emails listed last minute concerns the lawyers had with the contracts.
The sheriff proclaimed a county emergency based on recent flooding in February.
The board ratified the sheriff’s proclamation so that the county would be eligible for future federal and state emergency funds to pay for repairs.
Life insurance for responders
Former Plumas County supervisor B.J. Pearson, suggested to the board that the county set up a life insurance policy for public servants killed in the line of duty.