Caught on tape: House washed away by Cowlitz

Caught on tape: House washed away by Cowlitz »Play Video
PACKWOOD - There are new concerns on the Cowlitz River that 300 homes are in jeopardy if something isn't done to shore up the rivers' banks. Three homes have already been lost when the river changed its course in the Lewis County town of Packwood.

The homeowners thought they were a safe distance away from the Cowlitz; the house 50-60 feet away from the river's edge. But the heavy rains brought down trees and changed the course of the river right into their home and two others.

It was caught on videotape as the raging currents undermined the foundation and the home tipped right into the Cowlitz.

"Oh my God!" one is heard saying on the tape.

The house broke loose and was sent downstream. Fortunately no one was in it.

Jerry Cearly's home also washed away, and it almost took Jerry with it.

"It was doing a dance when I left the house, so it was getting ready and I had to hurry up and get out of there," he said. "It was a matter of seconds."

Jerry's neighbor's house -- the third one washed away -- ended up a mile downstream, still mostly intact, but buried under mud and debris.

Neighbors went inside to salvage what they could.

"It was amazing," neighbor Bob Sinkey said. "You walk in there and the beds were all made pretty much in the same spot as they were. Pictures were hanging on the wall straight. Mirror hanging on the wall."

But now the concern is for the 300 homes that are left.

"You can see the whole river has changed. It's coming right in and right at us," said Harold Goens. "If we don't get some rock dumped in there, all of these houses and if we get another high water we're all done."

The Army Corps of Engineers says it hasn't been called into help just yet.

And there's also concern downstream at Toledo because Tacoma City Light had to release water from the Mayfield Dam and high water is expected to impact Toledo.