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Last month you saw the damage in the moorages south of the Sellwood Bridge; now the cleanup has begun

DAVID F. ASHTON - After a weekend of cleaning up debris around the dozens of sunken boats, workers still had quite a ways to go - to remove the collapsed steel roofing and supporting timbers from the docks at the Portland Rowing Club moorage, just south of the Sellwood Bridge. The front page story of the THE BEE's March issue told about what happened to Sellwood moorages along the Willamette River during February's winter storm.

After longtime floating-home resident Renee Morgan at the Portland Rowing Club (PRC) saw the story, she contacted us to tell about the subsequent cleanup efforts.

"The storm damage was devastating. Under the extreme weight of the ice and snow, the covered boat-slip roofs collapsed onto 40 boats," Morgan recounted. "The Portland Rowing Club has weathered a lot of storms and floods since its establishment in 1879, but this was the worst since the 1996 Flood."

Balancing act keep homes afloat

When snow and ice up built up in three layers on the roofs of the nearby floating homes, they became unstable and started to tilt, Morgan recalled. "They all sit on 'floats' that are made of huge logs; so, as the weight would become off-center, more ice would build upon one side of the roofs – they would tend to start tipping to one side.

"Groups of us moved from home to home, jumping on the opposite side of the deck, helping to bring the home back to level.

"It would be okay for a while, then they started to tip another direction. So, for the better part of two days, neighbors sere helping each other balancing their houses from tipping, and preventing them from striking the floating home next door," Morgan commented. Indeed, none of the floating homes sank or were severely damaged.

"Living as a 'river rat', as we call ourselves, one person's problem, is everyone's problem," Morgan explained.

Land-lubber neighbors to the rescue

COURTESY OF RENEE MORGAN  - These were the collapsed awnings over the boat docks at the Portland Rowing Club moorage, brought down in February by heavy layers of snow and ice. They sank into the Willamette River, submerging dozens of watercraft under them.Feeling overwhelmed with the clean-up task ahead, Morgan said, "We put the word out to the community that we really needed their help out here to save our moorage; and, wonderfully, many volunteers came.

"Although it wasn't an 'official call-out', some volunteers were members of the Sellwood Neighborhood NET Team, who came on their own; others were from what we call the 'River Rat Cooperative' – river dwelling people along the Columbia and Willamette – all pitched in to help.

"The boater who decorates his craft as a big fire engine, Richie Rich, came immediately and started giving us help and advice."

After the storm cleared, volunteers hand-carried and carted four tons of wood and 20-foot-long sheets of metal roofing up the steep moorage ramp and dumped them into waiting dropboxes.

Due to the cost of repairing the docks and moorages, it's unlikely they'll be able to build another roof over the boat slips, Morgan told THE BEE.

River-living residents grateful

COURTESY OF RENEE MORGAN  - These were the collapsed awnings over the boat docks at the Portland Rowing Club moorage, brought down in February by heavy layers of snow and ice. They sank into the Willamette River, submerging dozens of watercraft under them."Some people think that we are an 'elite and wealth conclave' of homeowners here; but that's not the fact," Morgan pointed out. "We're a very mixed community here – some homes are large, many others are modest – and we have a volunteer-run moorage association that's not rolling in money.

"The community effort here not only 'lifted the roofs', but also really raised the spirits of all the residents and boaters, after the storm's devastating blow to the historic moorage," Morgan said.


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