FORKS — He thought it would be just a quick trip out to Forks to get photos for his girlfriend, a Twilight fan.
But the weather turned his visit into a much longer stay.
Jerry Harmon, formerly of Ohio and a traveler from Arizona, was among many tourists who were trapped on the West End on Monday by flooding that temporarily closed U.S. Highway 101 — the only major thoroughfare connecting Forks with the rest of the state — as well as state Highway 112, which provides access to Clallam Bay, Sekiu and Neah Bay; and state Highway 110, which isolated La Push.
He was able to leave Thursday morning after Highway 101 south of Forks reopened to one-way alternating traffic Wednesday afternoon.
In the meantime, he found many willing to help.
“I can’t say it’s been a terrible visit,” he said, despite the three nights he stayed in his van with his 5-year-old dog, Oliver.
“I’ve actually enjoyed it,” he added.
“It is very beautiful up here, and the people are extremely warm and comforting and very welcoming. I appreciate everything.”
He had driven from Arizona, where his girlfriend lives, to Kent for a job interview with a bus company.
“I traveled up through California, which I didn’t really like, then through Oregon, which was OK, but when I got to Washington, I thought I could really live here,” Harmon said.
The job interview, arranged by a friend, was scheduled for Tuesday. Harmon had some time on his hands so his girlfriend suggested he get her some photos of the town that is the setting for the “Twilight” novels by Stephenie Meyer.
On Sunday, he headed for the coast. As he traveled around Lake Crescent, he saw some water over the roadway.
“I just followed the cars in front of me, I wasn’t real concerned at that point.”
Once in Forks, Harmon did what he came for, taking photos at the Dr. Cullen sign at Forks Community Hospital, at the welcome to Forks sign, and with a Forks Police Department vehicle. He took 380 photos in all.
On Monday, during a visit to the Forks Timber Museum, he learned that all the roads out of town had been closed due to storm damage.
He had brought only $100 with him, so he and Oliver stayed in his van at the Forks Transit Center.
“I hadn’t planned to have to use my gas to try to keep us warm, so I was getting worried as it got colder,” Harmon said.
His friend in Kent made a call to the Forks Motel on Harmon’s behalf.
“After my friend called them, a very nice person at the Forks Motel gave me a blanket and pillows,” Harmon said.
The blanket arrived just in time as the temperature dipped to freezing on Tuesday night.
Later, Harmon shared his plight with a man at Laundry 101 on South Forks Avenue.
“This is a very kind-hearted town,” Harmon said. “A guy who said he owned the pizza place gave me $20 and told me to go have a good meal.”
A trip to the local Circle K resulted in a free cup of coffee.
Later on Wednesday, Harmon learned that the Forks Police Department manages a fund with local churches to help people experiencing an emergency while visiting the community.
A trip to City Hall resulted in Harmon getting a room for himself and Oliver for Wednesday night at the Forks Motel, where they slept comfortably for the first time in several nights.
Harmon had company in being stranded by the flooding.
The Forks Visitor Center about inquiries from about 50 people who were stranded.
West End tourism numbers are strong even as winter sets in. January through September numbers for 2021 are third-highest behind 2010 (first) and 2009 (second) for the busiest years.
But, it could have been worse, said Lissy Andros, Forks Chamber of Commerce director.
“While the event was very unfortunate, in the tourism aspect, we were fortunate that it wasn’t peak season,” she said.
”With our limited resources out here, this is just a glimpse of what could happen.”
Many residents also needed shelter. The Rainforest Art Center was open to those who needed a place to stay on Monday. Among them were the 10-12 people who were rescued from their flooded homes on the Lower Bogachiel.
Harmon said the company he is seeking to work for has been very understanding and his interview has been rescheduled for when he makes it back to Kent.
“It looks like there are a lot of jobs around,” he said.
”I will find something.”
Christi Baron is the editor of the Forks Forum, which is part of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at [email protected].