04 December 2007

[or_history] Come Hell or High Water: Welcome Back To The 1940's

1169. This weather event seems to be promising to be more significant that the 1996 floods, in terms of all-around damage and overall mayhem and chaos. Withal, we've heard that, amongst other things:
  • Interstate 5 is closed at Chehalis and the main rail line in western Washington is buried in mud at several points, closing access from Portland to Seattle.
  • Every major state route from metropolitan Portland to the Oregon Coast (State Routes 18 and 22 to Lincoln City and Newport, State Route 6 to Tillamook) as well as US 26 to Seaside are closed for at least a few days.
  • US 101 is compromised in at least a few places in the annual "Will the Coast Highway Remain Open During the Storm Season" crapshoot.
  • Tens of thousands of people remain without power or communications on the north and central Oregon Coast (we note that Chinook Winds casino in Lincoln City is open and providing some temporary shelter to locals)
  • Last we heard, Vernonia is utterly cut off–it's a hassle to get out, and darn near impossible to get back in.

Here at Sonnenuhurhaus we, on the other hand, are plagued with a mere roof leak. We shall not bemoan our bad fortune in the light of others.

To the point, though, the news of coastal communities cut off by the vicissitudes of weather make us think more of a time about fifty or sixty years ago. You see, to anyone born later than 1960, facilitous access to any community in Oregon by road is taken as read. Until the 1950s though, this was hardly a given, and even before that, wintertime meant the closing of passes and the general cessation of cross-mountain travel for quite a bit of the popuation.

It wasn't until the 1940s that the Oregon Coast Highway, US 101, then called the Roosevelt Highway, was completed. Before then, family folklore has it (The Wife™'s grandparents lived in Newport during the middle of the 20th C) that it was quite common to use the beach to motor from one town to another where conditions allowed. Before the 1930's, when Conde McCulloch's gracious bridges graced our coastline, ferries plied the coastal bays.

Even as late at 1960, the route to Salem we all take for granted–Interstate 5–was a road interrupted by a ferry crossing at Wilsonville. Now a wide spot on the left bank at the end of Boones Ferry Road, Boone's Ferry (pictured here in 1952 hard at work) connected motorists of the Wilsonville area to northern Marion County's extension of Boones Ferry Road. The completion of what was then called the Baldock Freeway spelled the end of that crossing.

I think what times like this give us (or at least those of us fortunate enough not to have to endure a power outage, a living room full of Johnson Creek water, or a tree through the roof) is the chance to really experience what it was like to not simply be able to assume that there was always a road there. This is what they mean when they said your tax dollars at work when they were building all those roads, and why road taxes are important: they'll make sure you'll have a road waiting to take you where you need to go, whether you need to go or not.

It's kind of a grounding sort of thought, which we'll turn over in our minds while we wait to hear that we can get through to Seattle along Interstate 5 if we so choose–or not, if we don't care to.

(NB: 1952 photo of Boone's Ferry from ODOT History Center page)

Technorati Tags: ,,

No comments: