By Lise Harwin, Marketing & Communications, American Red Cross – Oregon Trail Chapter
It doesn’t take Superman to save lives in a small town. It just takes Clark Kent…or at least a guy with glasses.
Peter Williamson, a long-time volunteer with the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross, put those specs to good use on Tuesday, Dec. 4, after rainfall had ravaged Oregon’s coastal communities.
Peter was on a fact-finding mission along the lower Columbia River, assessing the status of several communities cut off from communication due to lack of telephone service. One stop along the way? Westport – a tiny town (population: 600-800) temporarily without drinking water.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only water-related threat facing Westport residents. Peter also spotted a small creek with a culvert that had been blocked with debris. The backed-up water had already flooded adjacent roads and a railroad line.
Knowing that the creek ran straight through the middle of town and could threaten several homes, Peter immediately made contact with the local volunteer fire department, whose members told him about a debris dam that had formed outside of town. If it collapsed, the waters had the potential to destroy the Westport community.
Thinking quickly, Peter used his ham radio to get in touch with the nearby Columbia County emergency operations center (EOC). The potential dam break was news to them, leaving Peter a town hero…even without the matching cape.