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North Bend retirement home evacuated
Some look at floods as disasters and tragedies. Jean Leonard and Hattie Leppi, residents of Mount Si Transitional Health Center, look at last week's flood as an adventure.
"The getting out part was good," Leonard said.
Leonard and other residents were sitting down to dinner Monday night when center staff informed them they were being evacuated. The center was the only evacuation ordered by the city of North Bend, said mayor Ken Hearing.
Water was coming over the northern dike on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River in North Bend and could have come into the center. Residents began packing clothes and moving personal items higher to protect them from water.
Residents of the center were taken to two different hospitals; 31 people to Snoqualmie Valley Hospital and 13 people to Park Rose in Tacoma for two nights using the center's 15-passenger van and the Eastside Fire and Rescue ambulances. QFC in North Bend donated food for the ride because the residents had missed dinner. Leonard got to ride in the front of the ambulance with the driver.
"They wanted me to go to Tacoma," said Leonard. "I said, 'I want to go to Snoqualmie.'"
She got her wish. Hospital staff members were happy to be able to help the residents. The staff worked around the clock to provide a comfortable atmosphere for them. Only four nursing staff and two housekeeping staff were on duty, but 15 additional staff showed up to help, said Dr. Kimberly Witkop, medical director.
The residents and 12 evacuees from the local community slept in the 23 open beds of the hospital's 28 beds. Those who didn't sleep in beds slept where they could in conference rooms, the rehabilitation clinics or on mattresses on the floor, Witkop said. The hospital also provided residents with hot meals, including meeting special diet needs.
The residents stayed at the hospital Monday and Tuesday nights, returning to the center Wednesday.
Despite worries, no water got into the center, said Perry Hoffman, center administrator. As Hoffman watched the river rise, he briefed center staff on the evacuation policy. Later, the city of North Bend sent out the county emergency coordinator to speak with him. Then, at 5:15 p.m. when water began running over the dike, the evacuation was started. About 75 volunteers pitched in to help city staff place sandbags atop the dike to staunch the flow of water, Hearing said.
"People came out of the woodwork," Hearing said. "We have no idea who these people were."
Hearing said the sandbags likely kept the water out of the center and other nearby buildings. Though streets and parking lots were flooded, little water actually got into buildings, he said.
In addition to helping residents of the Mount Si Transitional Health Center, hospital staff members also provided clothing and DVDs for entertainment for four children brought in from the community, said Philip Koziol, staff development coordinator. King County Sheriff's Office used the hospital as its center of operations, said Witkop.
Not only people-friendly, the hospital also made provisions for a dog, a horse and eight alpacas on the hospital's lawn. Everything was included in the hospital's disaster plan.
Leif Nesheim contributed to this report.