By Don Nelson
When they heard, they came.
Several dozen friends and neighbors who responded to word-of-mouth networking swarmed through and around the home of Bob Elk and Janie Lewis on Friday afternoon (Aug. 22) to haul away belongings and shove thick, slimy mud out the back door one shovelful at a time.
Volunteers toted out boxes of housewares, furniture, paintings, clothing – anything they could carry, large or small – to trucks and trailers parked in the muddy road. A shovel brigade relentlessly hacked away at the gooey mass left behind on the floors after the water receded. Everyone got dirty.
Elk and Lewis were evacuating their home at milepost 24 on Highway 153, about two miles north of Carlton, after a 4-feet-deep slurry of mud and water surged through the house Thursday night as they were preparing dinner, driving them out into the drenching storm that caused the mudslide.
Highway 153 remains closed to through traffic from Carlton to Twisp because of washouts including one near milepost 27 that wiped out the highway, and more heavy storms are expected today.
Elk said he was in the kitchen when he heard a noise from the front of the house. When he investigated, he saw water running under the door. Then what Elk called a “flash flood” blew through the house, more quickly than he could imagine, Elk said. Lewis was out on the deck off the kitchen; they broke glass out of the door to the deck so Elk could escape.
“It happened so fast. You wonder, what do you take,” Elk said Friday afternoon during a break from salvaging the salvageable from his home. “But we had to think first about our lives.”
The water line that the mudslide left is clearly visible inside and outside the house. Anything below it was mud-covered. The volunteers grabbed what they could from everywhere in the home.
The slide also carved a ragged gorge between the house and the couple’s shop, a bit farther north along the road, leaving the shop perched on a precipice. One of their vehicles was pushed through the side of the shop by the mudslide, Elk said.
Elk and Lewis are staying with friends. Their belongings are in storage with other friends. Their house awaits its fate.