Update 2 Jan 06

Report from KBCI CH2
By Michelle DeGrand
  OWYHEE COUNTY - What a way to welcome in the new year! 11 people get stranded in a famous Idaho ghost town when flooding washes out a road. The Owyhee County Sheriff's Office rescued a total of 25 people this weekend as a result of the weather... and some could get stuck with a bill for emergency services. Deputies rescued 14 snowmobiles Saturday and another 11 Sunday, after heavy rains took out at least seven Owyhee County roadways. A New Year's trip to a Silver City cabin could end up being an expensive mistake for some Melba residents rescued by four wheeler Sunday. The area where Sinker Creek runs through six foot culverts beneath Sinker Creek Road on the way to Silver City is now a deep crevasse. The stream collected snow melt and rain from the Owyhee Mountains and became a raging river, taking a ten foot stretch of the road and two of the large culverts with it downstream. By Sunday, the washout could only be crossed by a front-end loader. "I had to declare an emergency so I could use other county equipment like the loader and road grader," said Owyhee County Sheriff Gary Aman. Deputies then loaded seven four wheelers into the loader's huge bucket, and carried them one by one across the washout, safely above the powerful current. The move was necessary to reach eleven people stranded at their cabin in Silver City, nine miles beyond the washout. During their annual holiday weekend in the snow, the six adults and five young kids were unaware that only hundreds of feet below, it was coming down as rain, and filling the small creek beds in the Owyhees. "We started in Friday morning, we hit a couple inches of snow at the turnoff off highway 78 and by the time we got [to Sinker Creek] there was a good four inches of snow and we weren't breaking through with trucks so we weren't worried, we felt pretty good about it when we started out," said Pat Monson, who was rescued along with his wife and three kids, his wife's parents, and another couple with their two children. The group asked for the county's help when they realized the road below had washed out badly, and they might not be able to make it through with small kids. However, the condition of the road as they returned to the area on the four wheelers with deputies astounded them. "Jaws dropped, you know it was incredible there was a lot of ten foot drop offs where we had to walk around and it wasn't easy," said Monson. His seven year old daughter had a similar reaction once she reached the washout. "It looked terrible today," said Morgan Monson, "When we went up there nothing was wrong, none of this was gone, none of the water was here." But with a little help they did make it back, and relatives from Nampa were waiting for them. "Oh baby girl how are ya?" said Morgan's grandmother as she scooped the girl up after Morgan rode with her siblings across the creek in the loader's bucket, "That was an adventure." Sheriff Aman says it was an adventure that cost the county about four hundred dollars an hour. There is, however, an Idaho law that allows municipalities to bill rescuees if they enter areas that are posted as off limits. Aman says this rescue qualifies. "This road's been closed for about a week now for reasons such as this and these people proceeded past the road closed sign, now they need to be rescued," he said. But family members say it was just a case of mother nature bringing a spring surprise in the dead of winter. They say the family was prepared, knew the area, but just needed a little help getting past the washout, rather than try it themselves and possibly create a bigger rescue. "These people were not in danger, they just wanted to get out of there. This is not an issue of somebody being stupid and going off where they don't belong," said waiting relative Grant Danner. "I don't think that was necessary, but sometimes that's how it goes," echoed Monson. Either way, it could prove to be a very memorable, but expensive, way to ring in the new year. Owyhee County Commissioners can decide to charge the group four thousand dollars per adult, which in this case could amount to 24-thousand dollars. Meanwhile, deputies said it could take months to fix the Sinker Creek washout because it is a relatively low priority roadway.