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The wheels on the car go GLUG, GLUG, GLUG

Dundee woman has a 'classic Fernhill' experience en route to Forest Grove

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - A Dundee womans car peeks above the floodwaters from the side of Fernhill Road, near the entrance to the Fernhill Wetlands parking lot. The car flooded after the woman disregarded the Road Closed signs Monday, Feb. 9.According to authorities, the woman left Dundee Monday morning, planning to drive to Forest Grove using Google Maps. The site directed her to drive west on Springhill Road, then north on Fernhill Road, across Highway 47 and into the city.

It had nothing to say about how she should handle the big “Road Closed” sign on Fernhill Road at the southwest edge of Fernhill Wetlands.

Like so many others before her, the woman pressed on, disregarding the sign and driving around the barrier. After all, she could still see the pavement ... for a while ... until it disappeared underwater ... along with the wheels of her car.

“It’s classic Fernhill Road. It happens so much,” said Forest Grove Fire & Rescue Public Information Officer Dave Nemeyer, referring to human error on the area’s most easily flooded stretch of roadway.

“Fernhill is definitely the first one in the Forest Grove area to flood,” said Forest Grove Police Capt. Mike Herb. “The next is probably Susbauer Road just north of Long Road (in Cornelius), followed by B Street in Forest Grove.”

Nemeyer can remember being out on Fernhill rescuing drivers from their flooded cars — only to see another person drive through and get stuck, adding a second rescue to the first.

Later Monday, in fact, as Nemeyer was out in a boat tending to the Dundee woman’s swamped car, he looked up and saw a blue SUV driving towards him through the water. The car turned around before floodwaters swept it off the road, he said.

“When you get out in the middle, there is a current, a very strong current that literally pushed that car into the ditch,” Herb said. The woman had to wade out of the water, ruining her phone along the way, he said.

A friendly Northwest Natural Gas crew saw her and helped her into their truck to dry off.

That’s where Forest Grove police officers Frank McGrew and Clarice Gordon found her, Herb said.

“The woman was soaking wet and cold. The officer (McGrew) turned the heat on high to warm her up.” Gordon gave her a blanket and McGrew contacted one of her family members in Newberg, then drove her to McDonald’s, where staff gave her free coffee and tried to fit her with dry clothes from their lost-and-found, said General Manager Brandi Baker. Unfortunately, the clothes were almost all for children, so nothing fit, Baker said.

The woman, who was eventually picked up at the McDonald’s, declined to talk to the News-Times.

Forest Grove police have cited people numerous times for driving past those Fernhill Road barriers, Herb said. “People need to know: If you pass that ‘Road Closed’ sign, you’re going to face the possibility of a ticket” — specifically, a $110 ticket for violating ORS 811.445, “Use of throughway when prohibited.”

But officers didn’t hand out a ticket this morning, Herb said. The woman had already lost her phone and her car, he said. “I think this morning they were compassionate.”

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