Glenoma, Lewis County: Linda Mitchell, owner of the Roadside Inn Tavern in Glenoma, stands atop debris that reaches the height of the bartools. She described her rescue from a mudslide with help from her son, a friend with an excavator and her Lab, Shadow.
STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Glenoma, Lewis County: Linda Mitchell's Roadside Inn was hit hard by the mudslide as she struggled to reach safety.
GLENOMA, Lewis County — For 23 years, Linda Mitchell made the Roadside Inn a cozy watering hole where locals could stop for a beer, play darts, or admire the deer head that her late husband, Charlie, had mounted on the wall. At the end of her shift, she would walk next door to her white, wood-framed house.
On Wednesday morning, Mitchell lost her tavern, home and nearly her life as a mudslide enveloped her property.
She was trapped by water and mud, first inside her house and later in the bar, for three nightmarish hours.
She figures she owes her life to her ax-wielding son, who chopped down a fence to ease the pressure from the mud and water engulfing her house, and a friend who later used an excavator to divert water surrounding the bar.
Then there was her Lab, Shadow, who helped her make a treacherous trek from her home to the slightly higher ground of the bar.
"He (Shadow) literally came back for me three times when I fell through the mud, snow and water, and I'm not real light," she said. "He'd stand there and let me pick myself back up with his body. He saved me."
Mitchell's land was among the hardest hit in Glenoma, which was slammed by mud, logs and water during this week's rainstorm that damaged Highway 12 through town and some properties.
Several hundred people live in the community strung out along the state highway, which winds through the Cowlitz River valley of Southwest Washington.
Near Highway 12, many of the slopes have been logged during the past decade. Some of those snow-laden hillsides gave way in the unrelenting rain, dumping large amounts of debris.
Mitchell had feared the logging might increase slide risks.
"I was against the logging," Mitchell said. "But it didn't make any difference."
Mitchell slept through intense rains on Tuesday night. She was awakened around 8 a.m. the next day by a phone call from a neighbor, who wanted her to peek outside.
She went to her window, stunned to find muddy water pressed against the glass and seeping through cracks.
Mitchell called her son, Luke Pugh, and his girlfriend, Amber Lagett, who lived in a nearby camp trailer.
Pugh used an ax to topple a fence that was acting like a dam, letting debris and water build up that threatened to breach the house. Four times, Pugh fell in the floodwaters.
Each time, Mitchell was able to extend a broom handle and rescue her son, she said.
The trio then decided to leave the back porch of the house for slightly higher ground at the tavern.
That's when Mitchell, 55, faltered amid the water and mud, and Shadow came to her rescue.
The tavern was no safe haven. They figured water and mud might bust through the door. Somehow, they had to find a way out.
A friend, Lynn King, responded to a phone plea for help. He used his excavator to divert some of the water from around the tavern.
Mitchell said that gave them a precious window of time so they could open a window and throw out some metal chairs to help them ford the rushing water and finally make it to the highway.
"He (King) risked his life and helped us so much," Mitchell said.
On Friday, Mitchell returned to the tavern and was dismayed to see that her late husband's deer head had been stolen by a looter.
She stood on top of mud so deep that it nearly reached the top of the bar stools and smoked a cigarette. Soon, she was surrounded by friends, sharing hugs, laughs and tears.
Mitchell said the house is insured but not against landslides, and there's no insurance on the bar. She's staying with family members who live elsewhere in Glenoma, and longs for a good night's sleep.
"Every time I close my eyes, I see walls of water and logs coming at me," Mitchell said.