Centralia Flood of 2015
January 7th, 2015 by Jay Fratt
A good friend of mine once listened to me complain about business, and he said, “That’s the risk of entrepreneurialism.” I took that to heart, and always kept that in mind whenever complaining about my business. For the first time in 18 years, I have to add mother nature to the risks of entrepreneurialism that I have faced.
Centralia, Wa is notorious for flooding. Smokin Js has been open in Centralia for 6 years, and in that time we have staved off and narrowly missed at least two major floods. On January 5th we were smack dab in the middle of the most recent flood to strike Centralia. By 8 am it was clear that January 5th would not be like any other Monday in Centralia. The flood struck fast as the local creek became a raging river; taking to the streets to get where it needed to go. Within an hour the waters had inundated the front of our store, and a strong current with high waters was rapidly flowing past the side entrance of Smokin Js.
Devon Smith, one of Smokin Js best sales associates, was quick on the scene. I quickly bought $100 worth of sand bags from Home Depot, and drove to Centralia with supplies and a mission in mind: We were going to barricade and insulate the store from damage, and protect our little Smokin Js oasis in Lewis County. For hours we bailed water behind the barricade we had established, but it just wasn’t good enough. We couldn’t stop the rising waters from getting into our store. It was obvious there was nothing we could do about mother nature, and the Centralia flood of 2015. We left the store with the power off, and inventory secured at mid day with 4″ of standing water in the store. The only thing we could do at this point was pray the waters wouldn’t go any higher.
I left the store depressed with all the variables that could affect the Smokin Js business on a whole. A phone call was placed to my insurance guy. I knew in the back of my head that flood damage typically isn’t covered in a policy. He said he would look it up right away and call me back in a hour. That phone call never came. I was on my own.
Little did I know that I had luck on my side and a crew ready to tackle the daunting clean up with me. Devon called me just after 5pm, “The flood waters have receded!” What we thought would take all day and night, had happened sooner than expected. I was on the road to Centralia again with a new mission: Start cleaning up the mess! Devon and I were shocked to see the 4″ of water inside Smokin Js had been reduced to zero in only 6 hours. The raging river that was flowing at knee high levels was gone, and replaced by large lakes in the roadways all over town. We had a shot at returning the Centralia Smokin Js back into Lewis County’s #1 headshop!
Life is a funny thing. We are on this planet for such a short period of time. Some say you make your own way, and others may say you are bound by fate. I know after today, I am either really good at hiring, or I am blessed to be surrounded by great workers. Devon and I were assisted by Nicole Claflan, another one of Smokin Js best sales associates, that night. She had a shop vac that she was willing to throw at our clean up efforts. For several hours Devon and I attacked the floors and got a jump start on turning a disaster area in a shiny headshop once again. Who knew a couple of herb smokers could operate a shop vac with such intensity! I left the store that night with positive thoughts and a blessed feeling in my heart. I knew we were going to be able to tackle this problem and open the next day.
Devon Smith and Nicole Claflan were amazing! We mopped, and then mopped again. We cleaned display cases by hand, and discarded carboard and inventory that was washed by the flood. Then the moment came: I was able to install new power strips and whoooaaalllaaaBeepBeep the server and computer system kicked on and was ready to go. By mid day we were once again in business! I want to thank Devon, Nicole, and the community of Centralia. These floods suck, but we can make it through and clean up together.