The flood of Jan. 1935

  • Wed Jan 18th, 2017 10:30am
  • Life

By Christi Baron

Forks Forum Editor

I don’t know about you but I am happy to see the freezing weather gone! Although if weather predictors are correct and we get 10 inches of rain this week, I don’t know if that is really all that great either?

But 10 inches of rain is not as bad as the 20 inches of rain the West End received on Jan. 20-21, 1935.

The Bogachiel, Quillayute and Dickey rivers all carried giant uprooted stumps, logs and other forest debris to cause some of the most dramatic rescues and loss of livestock possibly ever seen on the West End. The only thing that saved many pioneer families was the superb work of the surfmen from the La Push Coast Guard Station and Quileute canoeists, who launched small craft into the current and saved families from rooftops and second story windows.

High tides, heavy surf, onshore winds, the heavy rain and snow melt all combined for the perfect storm. Great tree trunks and stumps battered the pioneer homes and barns and water swept away sheep, cattle and chickens. Water filled homes at the rate of one foot per hour. Thankfully for several families, the telephone lines stayed connected and Mrs. Boyd Schlaefer, the wife of the owner of Peninsula Telephone company, stayed on the line with the flood victims. The W.H. Moore family of six was assured by her all through the night that help was coming. An Indian sealing canoe finally bumped the Moore home early Tuesday morning and rescued the family.

A short distance away Mr. and Mr. William Leyendecker fought desperately to keep the flood waters from sweeping their two children away through the tree-broken windows and doors. The children, ages 6 and 7, were first placed on tables until the tables began to float then the parents carried them on their shoulders until they were finally rescued.

Traveling six miles by truck, La Push Coast Guardsmen launched into the Bogachiel River. Pulling against a 7-knot current and fending off logs, the Coast Guardsmen rescued the William Wentworth, Virgil Ballard and William Leyendecker families. During the rescue, one of the surfmen was thrown overboard but was able to swim to a snag and was rescued shortly after.

At the Max Klahn home, Mr. Klahn and his oldest son had retreated to the attic. The river was running so swiftly that the Coast Guard boat only traveled 400 feet in two hours. When within 100 feet of the Klahn home, Boatswain’s Mate O.B. Headman fired a Lyle gun four times, finally connecting the last time, and a line was connected saving the Klahns.

Quileute sealers in one of their great sealing canoes with Perry Pullen, Albert Obi, Chris Morganroth, Roy Black, Horace White and two Hudson boys were responsible for rescuing the Moore family. They also rescued several Coast Guard families from their homes.

Johnny Hermison was given up for drowned but he walked out through the silt late Wednesday of that week. He had taken refuge in his barn where he had spent nearly 36 hours tying his cows’ heads up short and keeping them awake so they wouldn’t drown.

Harvey Smith drove his sheep to a wooden platform but the rushing water undermined it and over 100 sheep were lost to the flood waters.

The Dickey River bridge was swept out to sea. Several Quileutes over the age of 75 claimed it was the highest water and the greatest storm in their lifetimes.

The Aftermath

Forks was isolated with the Lake Creek bridge washed out 10 miles east of Forks and four great mudslides in the Hoh region blocked the Olympic Highway south. La Push was entirely cut off. On the Sappho-Clallam Bay road, 250 feet of fill washed out at Beaver Falls. Streams cut through most of the roads around Lake Pleasant and the town of Forks had most of the culverts wash out. The Mora Road was open to the Dickey bridge, which was gone, and cabins at the mouth of the Dickey were damaged. The cost estimate from the storm to roads, etc., was $30,000 in 1935 which equals $529,533.58 in 2016.

So I guess 10 inches of rain does not seem so bad?

Loose ends …

Would Ron Smith please call me back about “Loose Ends”? You left me a message but not your phone number. Thanks!