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February 2016 -- Vol. 110, No. 6

Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


The next BEE is our March
issue, with a deadline of February 18.
(The April issue has an ad and copy deadline of March 17.)


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Mike Pullen, Sellwood Bridge, bridge party
Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge spokesman Mike Pullen shows the enlarged artwork for a commemorative enamel pin that will be given to the first 5,000 visitors at the new Sellwood Bridge’s grand opening party, noon to 4 p.m. on February 27. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

New Sellwood Bridge to open with party


Plans are underway for a big celebration to mark the opening of the new Sellwood Bridge on February 27, starting at noon.

The public should understand that the bridge will be far from completed by that date, reminded Multnomah County Sellwood Bridge spokesman Mike Pullen, but starting March 1 you’ll be driving on it, and the demolition of the historic old bridge next to it will already be well underway.

When the new bridge first opens, pedestrians and bicyclists can only use the north sidewalk – “Probably until November,” Pullen said.

“Because of our February grand opening celebration, this may come as a surprise to many people,” Pullen told THE BEE. “The south sidewalk will not be available, because the width is too narrow at the East approach.”

Bridge to close for five days
Also, all Sellwood Bridge users need to be aware that the contractor plans to close all traffic – vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian – on the old bridge after the evening commute on Thursday, February 25.  “The new bridge opens traffic on Tuesday, March 1st, about 6 a.m.,” Pullen said.

Pullen said that the group planning the grand opening celebration recognizes that the middle of winter isn’t the best time of year to hold an outdoor event.

“It’s only a ‘special day’ just before everyone gets to use the bridge,” Pullen explained. “This is not the ideal time to have a big party on a bridge spanning the Willamette River. But, once we all have driven, walked over, and ridden bikes across, the new bridge – the uniqueness of the experience is forever gone. So this is the time!”

Party preview
First, on February 25, because both the neighborhood association, SMILE, and the Sellwood Westmoreland Business Alliance business association have shown interest in having a farewell event for the old bridge after it’s closed to traffic on Thursday, Pullen said the contractor has agreed to permit a “farewell march” across the old bridge, at about 7 p.m. that evening. When it’s over, so is the old bridge, forever.

“After that, work crews will be working 24 hours a day, taking down the jump span, moving around traffic barricades and Jersey barriers, doing some temporary paving, and restriping the roadway on the new bridge,” Pullen said.

On Saturday, February 27, Pullen said party planners are asking neighbors to walk, bike, or take TriMet to the foot of the Sellwood Bridge at 6th Avenue, for the celebration, because of severely limited parking in that area. The party on the bridge will run between noon and 4 p.m.

“People who come will first be greeted at a visitor’s booth on the east end,” Pullen explained. “They they’ll be invited to walk west, where we’ll have set up large, sturdy tents to shelter the vendors, exhibitors, and food carts. Sellwood and Westmoreland area businesses, community groups, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies will be exhibiting there.

“We plan to have some family entertainment – face painting, balloon animals – and our friend in the neighborhood, Henrik Bothe, will be performing his juggling and comedy act,” added Pullen.

The speeches begin about 1 p.m., but organizers say they are encouraging the local, regional, and national officials and dignitaries to be brief. “Then, our dignitaries will cut the ceremonial ribbon.”

Neighborhood schools, Portland Fire & Rescue, and the Portland Police Bureau have been invited to lead off a parade, staged from the west end of the new bridge. “As the parade heads east, we have requested the Portland Fire & Rescue fireboat to shoot up water giving us some pizzazz. The parade will include historic vehicles, neighbors, and school kids.” THE BEE will be there for all this of course!

After the event, workers will continuing to prepare the new Sellwood Bridge for traffic. Although bereft of some of its eventual amenities, the new bridge should reopen for traffic at 6 a.m. on March 1.

Portland snowstorm, bus stuck on hill, in snow
Police close down S.E. 45th Avenue, as a big-rig tow truck works to free this TriMet bus from a snow bank and drag it up the hill. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

“New Year’s Weekend” storm brings treacherous travel


By the time most people took a look out their window, on the first Sunday morning of the New Year January 3rd, the ground was covered with a light blanket of snow.

Many folks in Southeast took the opportunity to head out for winter activities like sledding, or just tramping through the snow.

And it was a real storm. A leading indicator of changing weather patterns is Barometric Pressure; and starting with a high of 30.1 at midnight, pressure steadily dropped throughout the day to a rather deep 29.6 by the day’s end.

Snow began falling at 6:53 a.m., and the temperature hovered within a degree or so of 30.0°F throughout the day.

However, the “surprise” snowstorm – only a sleet storm had been forecast for that evening – caused havoc with public transportation. Along the TriMet Orange and other MAX Light Rail lines, the agency began running special “ice buster” trains designed to peel frozen precipitation off of the overhead “catenary” electric power lines. TriMet buses became stuck on hills.

And many drivers didn’t fare much better, as they slid out of control – crashing into other vehicles and stationary objects.

The snowstorm stopped at 12:53 p.m., but “light ice pellets” which turned to freezing rain began just one hour later.

To find out more about this weather system, THE BEE visited the region’s NOAA weather station near the airport, and spoke with National Weather Service Senior Meteorologist Clinton Rockey. 

“We kind of expected something to come up here today,” Rockey remarked. “But we did not expect a snowstorm this morning! Yet, lo and behold, when I woke up this morning my kids were excitedly pointing out that it was snowing outside of the house!”

Rockey said the snow was caused by a “little band of moisture” coming up from the south. “It wasn’t a huge amount of moisture; if it had been, with the cold air coming down from the north and moving in from the Columbia Gorge, we would have seen a blizzard. Portland’s getting about an inch of snow today.”

The weather forecaster accurately predicted the afternoon sleet storm that turned into freezing rain. “There is still a lot of cold air rolling of the gorge and from the Cascades,” Rockey told us. “It looks like it is going to be pretty cold through the week.”

His prediction was accurate – snow and ice lingered on the ground in many of the neighborhoods throughout the week.

With temperatures staying below freezing overnight, most of Southeast Portland (and indeed the whole city) got a “snow day” on Monday, December 4, as ice-covered streets and sidewalks made travel treacherous.

The storm system continued to confound TV weathercasters into the week. Area schools were closed both Monday and Tuesday; and much of local government shut down for a day or two.

Might this be our last winter storm for the season? “That is difficult to predict,” Rockey said. “We’re having unusual weather patterns. When the ‘wet meets the cold’, we’ll again see freezing rain or snow.”

Fat Alberts, Bruce Wayne Ferguson
The day before the break-in rampage at the restaurant, 26-year-old Bruce Wayne Ferguson had been detained on a corner in Westmoreland for a “welfare check”. He was not wearing a shirt. (Photo by Eric Norberg)

Sellwood-area vandal arrested after trashing Fat Albert’s


A man in his mid-20s repeatedly caused concern in the Sellwood and Westmoreland neighborhoods in late December.

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers were called to a “welfare check” of a man, naked from the waist up, near the corner of S.E. 20th Avenue and Harold Street at 1:21 p.m. on December 21.

It’s not clear if that person, later identified as 26-year-old Bruce Wayne Ferguson, was actually taken to jail, or was released with a “Summons to Appear” before a judge. What is known is that Ferguson was out roaming the Westmoreland business district the very next evening.

Reportedly, he was asked to leave the Limelight Restaurant, located next to the Moreland Theater, on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue mid-evening on December 22. There is also an unconfirmed report he received the same request after causing damage at a Sellwood bar.

11:42 p.m. that evening, Central Precinct officers responded to Fat Albert’s Breakfast Café, just a half-block north of the Limelight, at 6668 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue, on the report of a burglary.

The owner of Fat Albert’s, Vickie Walsh, told THE BEE she was in the area when her business’s alarm monitoring company called her.

“When the alarm company called, saying the alarm had been triggered, I came to check it out,” Walsh said. “The first thing I noticed was that the motion-sensor light was on, in the back alley. A guy stepped out, and I told him he was trespassing, and to leave.”

Walsh said that, judging by his behavior, she immediately believed the man, later identified as Ferguson, was experiencing a mental health crisis or was under the influence of some substance. He didn’t leave, Walsh reported, but instead, headed back toward the rear door of her business.

While she was waiting for officers to respond, Ferguson was busy breaking in the back door. “When he busted his way in, I called and told 9-1-1 this guy is trashing the back of my restaurant,” Walsh said. “They had me wait across the street. A friend was standing in front of the restaurant and kept reporting to me, saying he could see guy in the back of the restaurant, ransacking the place. Clearly something was wrong with his thought processes.”

Fat Albert's Breakfast Cafe, Vickie Walsh
Fat Albert's Breakfast Café owner Vickie Walsh points to the very high shelf where the ransacking burglar tried to hide from a police K-9. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

At first, a Canine Officer sent in his police dog. When it came out, Walsh said the officer affixed a small video camera to the dog’s harness, and sent the four-legged officer back into the building.

“The Canine Unit found the suspect hiding on shelving in the back of the restaurant,” said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson, later confirming the suspect taken into custody was indeed Ferguson.

Walking to the back of the restaurant the next day, Walsh shook her head as she looked at the damage.

“I was fortunate enough to have five people in here helping me clean up all night long and into the morning, so we could open today,” Walsh said.

“There was broken glass – a lot of it – strewn around the back of the restaurant,” Walsh remarked. “There was sugar, spices, cooking supplies, napkins – anything that was stored back there – broken and strewn around.

“He ransacked the bathroom, and pulled the toilet paper dispenser and other fixtures off the wall, and pulled over the employee’s lockers,” Walsh added.

She confirmed that officers found him crouched on shelving, high above the back door that he had ripped off the hinges.

“When the officers brought him out, he was not nice to the police officers,” recalled Walsh. “He was taunting them, saying sassy stuff like ‘I've been committing crimes all day so you would come and get me and I could go to jail’.”

Ferguson was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center at 1:51 a.m. the morning of December 23 on charges of Burglary in the Second Degree and Criminal Mischief in the First Degree. He remained in custody, as of January 13, in lieu of $10,000 bail.

It was not a typical day for the restaurant, family owned and run for the past 15 years, and now an institution in the area – but it did open. “I’m glad we’re back to serving customers,” Walsh said.

Tenino Terrace apartments, Johnson Creek, flood
Two days after the “20-year event” flooding of December 7th, Johnson Creek was back in its banks, but not before flooding many units of the Tenino Terrace apartments. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Johnson Creek overflows banks in heavy December rain


Ever since extensive work by the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services in Outer Southeast to clear a flood plain for Johnson Creek, it has stayed in its banks – even along flood-prone S.E. Foster Road.

But, the unusually heavy rainfall that peaked on December 7 – dumping 3.17 inches of rain that day alone, as measured by the BEE rain gauge in Westmoreland – caused Johnson Creek to rise over its banks in many areas.

THE BEE asked BES Johnson Creek Watershed Manager Maggie Skenderian why, despite the $25 million project, Johnson Creek had overflowed its banks in areas such as at the apartment complex at S.E. 28th and Umatilla Street in Sellwood.

“As far as we know, that area hasn’t flooded since 1996,” Skenderian said. “The ground in that area is low relative to the creek.” Before that costly abatement project, Johnson Creek had flooded, somewhere along its banks, about every other year, Skenderian observed.

“We had a ‘Seven Year [high water] Event’ in 2012, and the system worked as expected,” Skenderian pointed out. “The event we had on Monday [December 7] met the all-time record for the height of Johnson Creek. It was similar to what happened during 1996.”

Pausing a moment to look up data for us, Skenderian reported that the water level at the historic “Sycamore Gauge” measuring station in East Portland shot up to a “record reading” during the storm. “The water level rose 1.5 feet in one hour – between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Monday, December 7th.

“The water level crested at 15.33 feet,” Skenderian reported. “At the 15 foot level, 2,775 cubic feet per second is flowing in the creek. By December 11, four days later, the level subsided to less than 5 feet at the gauge.”

Called a “20 Year Event”
By the end of the week, BES staff was still mapping the extent of the flooding, especially in the area of the mitigation projects, Skenderian said. “I’m quite certain that the magnitude of this record-breaking flood would have been much worse without the projects in place.

“We are told by the United States Geological Survey that this was a 20 to 25 year event,” she went on. “Many businesses along Foster Road have benefitted from the projects; many haven’t been affected by other, smaller floods that have come along since we’ve done the projects.”

We asked: Can Johnson Creek overflows be totally prevented?

“For Johnson Creek to be completely contained during larger events, it would take a much larger investment and larger-scale projects to achieve higher levels of mitigation,” Skenderian responded.

All flood mitigation plans are scrutinized in terms of cost/benefit analysis, she said. “The optimal plan selected was for reducing the nuisance floods. To go beyond that, there needs to be a broader public discussion on the topic.”

Harold Street crash, collision
Vehicle parts were strewn in the street, after two SUVs collided at the border between the Woodstock and Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhoods. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Violent Woodstock collision wrecks two vehicles


With cold rain falling, Woodstock neighbors weren’t strolling along the neighborhood border at S.E. 60th and Harold Street at 8:35 p.m. on January 14.

Just as well, because they would at that moment have been at risk. A loud crash brought nearby residents to their windows, when two SUVs collided at that intersection. The smashup was so violent, safety airbags deployed in both vehicles.

An East Precinct officer at the scene told THE BEE that, upon initial investigation, a green Honda Element had been eastbound on Harold Street. “The driver said she was going 20 to 25 mph. She reported she did not see the other vehicle,” the officer said.

The other vehicle, a Nissan Xterra, was reportedly northbound on S.E. 60th Avenue. It is unclear if the driver didn’t see, or just didn’t obey, the stop sign at the intersection, but there was no sign the vehicle even slowed before entering the crossing.

Because the Nissan had both driver’s-side impact damage, and passenger’s-side rear end damage, it is unclear if the Honda broadsided the vehicle in the intersection, or clipped its rear end, sending it bouncing off a street tree.

A Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division officer was called to evaluate the sobriety of the driver of the Xterra.

As THE BEE went to press, records were not yet available about this crash; it remained undisclosed whether either a citation or an arrest was issued in this case.

Brentwood Darlington, house fire
After the fire was extinguished at this New Year’s morning residential fire in Brentwood-Darlington, smoke still poured from the windows. (Courtesy of PF&R)

Wind whips flames of heater-caused Brentwood-Darlington house fire


Only hours after Brentwood-Darlington neighbors rang in the New Year, a fire broke out in a house at 7604 S.E. 66th Place. It was reported at 4:38 a.m.

When the first Portland Fire & Rescue crews arrived, they reported seeing flames above nearby rooftops as they approached the area on S.E. Flavel Street.

“The growth of the fire accelerated, due to the high winds,” explained PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Tommy Schroeder.

Some of the firefighters made sure that all occupants were out of the home, while others made a quick attack on the blaze from outside the dwelling. Only the family cats were unaccounted for at that time.

“After an initial exterior attack to bring the fire under control, crews were able to go inside and knock the remainder of the fire down there,” Schroeder said.

A PF&R Fire Investigator determined the cause of the fire had been an electric space heater igniting flammable items stored too close to it, said Schroeder. “As the temperature dropped overnight, the heater automatically turned on, and ignited those items.”

All occupants escaped the fire safely, Schroeder added. “A pet iguana also survived; however, three cats perished in the fire.”

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