Hurricane Harvey and the Future of Oregon’s Rural Counties

The beginning of the year’s above average precipitation began in the Southeast corner of the state in some of its most rural counties

Flooding in Oregon in early 2017 damaged many rural roads. Hurricane Harvey is expected to do the same in Texas; dumping an additional 1-3 feet of rain in the days after 2.5 feet of rain had already fallen in the first three days of the storm. Harvey previews future flood-problems for Oregon’s rural roads, while also lending  insight into how simple things such as simply being more careful with one another can save as many lives as rebuilding the physical infrastructure that connects us.

Roads in large parts of rural Oregon were damaged or closed in early 2017 due to melting snow and heavy rain. Eastern Oregon transportation officials complained that the federal government was not likely to help; the roads were too rural to qualify for federal assistance. Unfortunately, current federal climate policies are aligned with emission standards that will continue to cause heavier flooding in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), negatively impacting Oregon’s rural counties, making them them some of the hardest hit by Trump’s climate policies.

But Oregon’s rural counties also have another problem on their hands. The national transportation group, TRIP, found that Oregon’s rural roads host some of the highest rates of fatalities in the nation. The cause of the fatalities was often listed as “carelessness.”

To me, these three things–the TRIP report, Oregon’s intense flooding in 2017, and Hurricane Harvey–all say more about our ordinary moments than the tragic ones. All three show how our carelessness in the most ordinary of things, like driving, can scale up. In other words, ordinary carelessness cascades. The results, for the PNW, come in the form of flooding and more extreme weather events and high mortality rates on our roads.

Because of this, it seems that our the way we take care of ourselves and one another can be as important as the physical infrastructure that connects us. Towards this end, 350PDX’s Climate Odyssey Program is one of many initiatives working on this issue. On the First Tuesday each month 7-9pm at the Central Lutheran Church, 1820 NE 21st Ave, the Climate Odyssey team offers practices for:

  • Personal Resilience
  • Growing & Strengthening Community
  • Creative Arts
  • Growing Our Capacity As Allies in the Work of Justice

If you would like to get involved or host your own night doing this work, please get in touch with us.

– Danny Thiemann