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After the flood: Sandy River residents still on edge

2011: Where are they now? An update of the Sandy Post's top stories of the year
by: LISA K. ANDERSON Sandy River flooding has become an annual reason for angst on the mountain.

In 1980, Bruce and Winnie Hawkins couldn't see the Sandy River from their house. Then, during the 1996 flood, the trees in front of their house 'dropped like toothpicks' and offered them a panoramic view of the Mount Hood foothills.'

After the 2006 flood, the Hawkins and their neighbors in the Timberline Rim neighborhood near Welches built a dike on the edge of their properties with 'boulders the size of Volkswagens.'

Last January, two of those boulders gave way the day the Sandy River reached 19.3 feet and peaked out at more than 21 feet. The group of neighbors ended up sandbagging until midnight, not sure if the remaining boulders would hold and what would become of their homes.

Besides cutting down a large tree before it had the chance to fall on their house, the Hawkins said their property was sparred. But that doesn't mean they aren't concerned for future flooding.

'I told my wife, 'These houses should have never been built here,' ' Bruce said. 'We're just hoping the dike is strong enough to hold.'

Almost a year after a mid-January flood swallowed three houses, washed out Lolo Pass and damaged many properties in the Welches area, residents who live along the Sandy River say they feel little reassurance from government agencies that they are prepared for another flood season.

Added to their frustration, residents say, is the amount of time work permits took, the money and energy they've spent protecting their property, and the way 'government agencies pass the buck' as another flood season looms large.

Bruce said flooding 'is one of those things when you live on the river. The river will go wherever it wants and could wipe out any of these little places.' He said he feels like river residents have 'always been on their own.'

'This year we're in no better situation, with no better protection,' said Kip O'Connor, a contractor, resident of Brightwood for more than 40 years and owner of seven riverfront lots, in an earlier interview. 'It's like we're on hospital beds waiting to be taken out. And we haven't even recovered from last year yet.'