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Vernonia floods for third time in 19 years

COURTESY PHOTOS: GARRY KINNEY - Sharks appear to be circling the warning sign in a flooded Hawkins Park, located on Park Drive in downtown Vernonia, while an alligator-like log floats behind it Dec. 9. By Dec. 11, the waters had receded and the sign was once more on the bank of Rock Creek -- not in it.Last Wednesday morning, Garry Kinney put on his hat, grabbed his camera and headed to the Bridge Street Mini Mart in downtown Vernonia. He bought a Diet Mountain Dew, went out on the street and started snapping photos of his city’s downtown area, which had become a flood zone for the third time since 1996.

This time, the three-year-old K-12 school on Missouri Avenue didn’t get ruined by out-of-control weather — as the former campus did in 2007.

This time, homes that were raised six feet after the 2007 flood — using funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — didn’t take on water.

And this time, the mini mart didn’t flood, as it had in the past.

Last week’s deluge mostly added up to “a matter of inconvenience” for Vernonia’s 2,100 residents, according to Kinney, a local photographer. Four inches of rain fell between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, turning a city park into a lake, causing a mudslide on a major highway and making the commute into and out of town nearly impossible for a short time.

Vernonia sits mostly in Columbia County, but a portion crosses over into Washington County.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is not good,’” said Kinney of watching the rain pour down from his hillside home. “At

the point the pictures were taken we couldn’t get out of town.”

His camera lens caught partially submerged cars and trucks, a flooded Greenman Field at Vernonia High and what looked like shark fins peeking above the water table at Hawkins Park.COURTESY PHOTOS: GARRY KINNEY - By Dec. 11, the waters had receded and the sign was once more on the bank of Rock Creek -- not in it.

It was altogether different from years past, when inclement weather wreaked havoc on the city. In February 1996 there was a foot of snow on the ground and “a Pineapple Express storm came through,” recalled Kinney, prompting widespread flooding and cutting off power to the city for more than a week. Snow fell before the ‘96 flood as well.

“This time there was no low-level snow” to complicate matters, Kinney noted.

A landslide at milepost 4 of the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway inconvenienced travelers, but no real emergencies resulted. By Dec. 11 the waters had receded and things were getting back to normal.

“Everybody was safe ... everybody was dry,” said Kinney.