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Small Northeast Oregon Town Digs Out From Mud Flow

Anna King


HELIX, Ore. – Residents of the tiny northeast Oregon town of Helix are cleaning up after a huge mudflow that inundated much of the community.

Fourteen-year-old Tucker Wilson and his grandfather were hard at work in the hot sun scooping mud out of a ditch nearby their family farm.

The community of Helix -- population 182 -- depends on the rolling hills of wheat that surround it. But these fields betrayed the town. A massive lightning and thunderstorm sent rivers of goopy mud washing down the gullies from recently harvested fields.

Jack Bascomb, the mayor of Helix, wonders how the community will pay for all the cleanup.

“We have a very small budget anyways with a town of 182 people," he says. "So we pretty much don’t have any funds to cover our expenses.”

Volunteers have done the bulk of the cleanup with equipment from neighboring towns. Much of the silty mud ended up in the city hall basement, the city park and surrounded the small city pool. In some areas it’s hip high.

Meghan Schroeder is the head lifeguard for Helix’s community pool. She and two other lifeguards have been cleaning the decks with hoses and scrapers.

“There’s nothing else to do when you are little down here," Schroeder says. "So we are working as hard as we can and hopefully we can get it open for the last few weeks of summer.”

The local health department has warned residents that bacteria in the mud could make them sick. The agency is giving out free shots.

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Photo slideshow of Helix, Ore.:

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio