West End tourism numbers continue to be strong, even as winter is setting in. As a matter of fact, January – September numbers for 2021 are third-highest behind 2010 (first) and 2009 (second) for busiest years. So it is not surprising that this week’s road damage and road closures found many visitors trapped on the West End and most were not prepared for a longer stay.
Jerry Harmon, formerly from Ohio, had left Arizona a week ago on his way to Kent, WA for a job interview. Harmon said, “I traveled up through California, which I didn’t really like, then through Oregon, which was okay, but when I got to Washington I thought I could really live here.”
Harmon had a friend in Kent who had arranged a job interview for him, which was scheduled for Tuesday. Harmon is a former truck driver but due to a medical issue with his brain, he has had five recent surgeries and has been unable to maintain his Commercial Drivers License status. The job interview was for a bus company, 14 passenger bus, which does not require a CDL.
With time on his hands, waiting for the day of the interview, his girlfriend in Arizona, a Twilight fan, suggested that since he was in Washington and so close to Forks he make a quick trip out to take some photos of Twilight-related attractions.
On Sunday Harmon headed for the coast, as he traveled around Lake Crescent there was water over the roadway, Harmon said, “I just followed the cars in front of me, I wasn’t real concerned at that point.”
Once in Forks Harmon did what he came for, taking photos at the Dr. Cullen sign at Forks Community Hospital, at the welcome to Forks sign, and with a Forks Police Department vehicle. He took 380 photos in all.
It was a visit to the Forks Timber Museum on Monday where Harmon learned that all the roads had been closed due to storm damage. He had only brought $100 with him so for three nights he and his five-year-old dog Oliver stayed in their van at the Forks Transit Center.
“I hadn’t planned to have to use my gas to try to keep us warm, so I was getting worried, as it got colder, Harmon said.
Harmon had let his friend in Kent know that he was stuck in Forks, and his friend was concerned and made a call to the Forks Motel on Harmon’s behalf. “After my friend called them a very nice person at the Forks Motel gave me a blanket and pillows,” Harmon shared.
The blanket was just in time as the temperature dipped to freezing on Tuesday night.
Harmon had stopped in at Laundry 101 sharing his plight with a man there, “This is a very kind-hearted town, Harmon said, “A guy who said he owned the pizza place gave me $20 and told me to go have a good meal.”
A trip to the local Circle K resulted in a free cup of coffee. Later in the day, on Wednesday, Harmon learned that the Forks Police Department manages a fund with local churches to help people experiencing an emergency while visiting the community of Forks.
A trip to City Hall resulted in Harmon getting a room for himself and Oliver for Wednesday night, at the Forks Motel, where they slept comfortably for the first time in several nights.
Word came in late Wednesday evening that SR 101 South of Forks was reopening at 5 p.m. to one-way alternating traffic.
SR 101 around Lake Crescent also reopened Wednesday night at 7 p.m. to escorted-one-way traffic throughout the night. It was to close Thursday morning at 9 a.m., so crews could return and continue working on repairing the road.
Harmon was happy to hear the news about the road opening but said he did not like to drive at night, so he stayed put in his motel room for the night and left Forks early on Thursday morning.
Harmon said he had really appreciated the information about the fund at City Hall. “I appreciate their willingness to help me even though I got stuck here. I can’t say it’s been a terrible visit, I’ve actually enjoyed it, it is very beautiful up here and the people are extremely warm and comforting and very welcoming I appreciate everything.”
Regarding the issue of stranded tourists Forks Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Lissy Andros said, “While the event was very unfortunate, in the tourism aspect, we were fortunate that it wasn’t peak season. With our limited resources out here this is just a glimpse of what could happen.”
As far as the job interview, Harmon said the company has been very understanding and the appointment has been rescheduled for when he makes it back to Kent. “It looks like there are a lot of jobs around, I will find something.”