NESKOWIN - Flood waters submerged roads and lapped at houses as workers punched through a massive deposit of sand in an effort to reduce hazards Wednesday.
"I think we're going to make it just in time to avoid a more serious problem," said Tom Manning, director of emergency management for Tillamook County. "We do have an emergency situation on our hands."
State officials declared an emergency in Neskowin after the Board of Tillamook County Commissioners convened Tuesday afternoon to order an emergency designation, Manning said. The state order directed Oregon State Parks officials to mobilize and authorized a contract for heavy equipment to remove sand.
The problem began during a heavy storm with ocean swells Saturday when "large waves deposited a huge sand bar that blocked the drainage of Hawk Creek," Manning said. The swelling creek backed water toward nearby houses in Neskowin, a town approximately 30 miles south of Tillamook.
Water displaced by the storm debris gradually has made certain roads impassable to low-riding vehicles. Parts of Hawk Creek Road, which Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson described as the main road between U.S. Highway 101 and the golf course in Neskowin, reportedly were covered by 18 to 20 inches of water Wednesday.
The sand deposit was more than 6 feet higher than the level of the creek, and workers faced the prospect of removing a section 90 yards long to drain the water back into the ocean, Manning said. He anticipated three or four hours of work would be needed.
Officials with state parks, Tillamook County's community development department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were on hand to provide technical assistance.
When work began Wednesday afternoon, water had essentially filled the golf course and was reaching the garages and floorboards of a few houses, Manning said. Seven houses were close to the floodwaters, and another 10 houses had a high potential of being affected, he said.
"Some folks can't even get into their houses with low-profile vehicles," he said.
Work began when the water was four inches from flooding the sewer system, a situation which could have raised public health issues, Manning said.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross was notified. But so far no evacuations have been needed, and no one has been injured, Manning said.
The extent of any possible damage to homes was not yet known.